St. Marys Journal Argus
The Police Services Board (PSB) of St. Marys will continue to act as liaison between Town Council and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) through Jan. 1, 2014, following the approval by councillors of a motion tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 17) to extend the municipality's current contract with the Sebringville-based Perth County OPP detachment.
The other option was to do away with the PSB, at least temporarily, and operate under provincial legislation as a so-called “Section 5.1” municipality.
Council was faced with the decision because the current three-year contract with the OPP is set to expire in October, 2014. Unlike in past years when the policing contract was set to expire, this year there will be no negotiations leading into next fall. That’s because the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has put a moratorium on all OPP contract renewal negotiations until a new model for service delivery remuneration is created.
Last month, councillors were advised that Town staff would bring forward a report comparing the options of maintaining the existing contract under PSB oversight, or switch to a Section 5.1 municipality. Section 5.1 of the provincial legislation sets in stone some of the elements of police coverage over which the PSB typically has some influence.
"Under 5.1, there are no negotiations. There is no contract. You just get a bill," explained St. Marys PSB Chair Henry de Young, at the Dec. 17 meeting.
Councillor Don Van Galen predicted the new Ministry formula, once it's in place, is unlikely to be beneficial to municipalities. He argued it would be better to leave things as they are, ask the PSB to initiate informal talks with the Sebringville detachment about service provision after October, 2014, and let the municipality revert to a Section 5.1 scenario the contract expires. He said he values the PSB's role in St. Marys and wants to see it stay intact but, if — as the Ministry has suggested — there's no possibility of any new contract until early 2015, there might be considerable savings to the town if they revert to 5.1 temporarily.
CAO Kevin McLlwain explained the current contract is very similar to Section 5.1 policing — an assessment confirmed by de Young, who noted that when the current contract was being negotiated in 2010, it was decided to do away with any enhancements that were previously in place.
Two areas in which there are informal enhancements compared to Section 5.1 are the presence of the PSB, and a subsidy of approximately $9,000 annually from the detachment for in-town RIDE (Reducing Impaired Driving Everywhere) programs, over and above the $7,000 already set aside in the town's budget.
Councillor Stephen McCotter, however, countered that there's comfort in knowing the PSB will remain in place, and brought forward the motion — with Councillor Bill Osborne seconding — to extend the current conditions through Jan. 1, 2014. Mayor Steve Grose agreed, stating, "I think we're in a better position if we have that Police Services Board in place through those negotiations."
McCotter's motion passed 3-2, with Van Galen and Lynn Hainer opposed. Tony Winter, Council's representative on the PSB, was absent from the meeting.