St. Marys Journal Argus
St. Marys Town Council will be asked in the coming weeks to make a decision about its preference for Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) coverage over the next two years — either administered through the existing Police Services Board (PSB) model, or a conversion to one of the many communities administered through a piece of Ontario legislation known as “Section 5.1.”
The OPP announced recently it will not be negotiating any new PSB contracts until a new framework for contracts is created on a provincial level. A note on the provincial police force’s website (http://www.opp.ca/ecms/files/276299509.8.pdf) explains that, during a meeting last month of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, “the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services advised delegates that the OPP and Ministry staff had made progress in developing a more responsive model for OPP billing (and) it would be unfair and counterproductive to negotiate contracts when the billing model may change significantly well before the end of the contract.
“The OPP and the Ministry have decided that it will be far more efficient to extend existing contracts on a non-contract basis until a decision on the new model is reached.”
At a Nov. 5 Committee of the Whole meeting, Town of St. Marys CAO Kevin McLlwain told councillors the OPP’s moratorium on new contracts is expected to extend over two years. The Town’s PSB contract, meanwhile, closes in the fall of 2014. He added, however, that the OPP has made it known to the town that it would like to have the issue ironed out well before the contract expires.
McLlwain laid out two options: Continuing through 2015 under the existing contract terms, or shifting to what’s called “Section 5.1 policing.” And, although he was careful not to advise councillors about what their decision should be, he made it clear that, in his estimation and with some exceptions, the current level of service received by the town is not substantially different from what would be made available under Section 5.1.
“Under 5.1, there is no guaranteed minimum number of hours. Under contract policing, there is,” the CAO noted. He added that the reports provided to the town would be of a regional nature, without St. Marys-specific content. But there would still be an OPP office in the town, and the level of police presence would be similar.
Under Section 5.1, there would be no PSB. The OPP would report directly to Council.
McLlwain also laid out two options for reaching a decision: Leaving it with the existing PSB and acting on that committee’s recommendation; or making the decision themselves, based partly on consultation with the PSB. Council chose to tackle it themselves, with help from the PSB. They directed Town staff to come up with a comparison of contract versus Section 5.1 policing service for their December Committee of the Whole meeting.