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Future OPP contract models, cost still a mystery to municipalities

Posted January 22, 2014

What's certain is the OPP have put moratoriums on contract renewals and triggered the notice provisions to cancel current deals in place with communities across the province including the Nottawasaga detachment, so the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services can introduce a new billing model for provincial policing in 2015.

How that will look, its impact on costs, and services provided, remain unknown and municipalities policed by the OPP, including the tri-party partners - New Tecumseth, Essa, Adjala-Tosorontio - are writing each other seeking support to build a united front, and also expressing concerns with the Ministry about speculated cost spikes.

In 2014, the OPP contract will cost New Tecumseth $5.65 million, which makes up 23 per cent of the total tax levy of just under $25 million.

For the first time since the mayors were summoned to OPP headquarters in Orillia last fall to learn of the pending new model, the topic was addressed by New Tecumseth councillors, sparked by widely circulated motions from Ontario towns expressing concerns their policing costs will increase particularly if contracts are priced using per household formulas.

Mayor Mike MacEachern, who chairs the Nottawasaga Police Services Board, told councillors Monday night that because the OPP and Ministry have not released any details of the models, it was a moot point to take any positions on the subject.

"I can inform council that we've tried to get detailed costing, and at least an assessment on where we would range in regards to the cost of policing. and to this point, we have not been successful in getting information from the province, so it's hard to speculate," said mayor MacEachern. "At this time it's difficult to pinpoint an actual number based on the fact they continue to say we're going through a consultation process and we haven't arrived at our final model."

Ward 3 councillor Paul Whiteside said the figure he was told from the finance department was policing cost $541 per household in New Tecumseth in 2013. Early indications about the model is there could be a base level whereby a municipality above it would pay less in the new arrangement, and those below it would see an increase.

"As I understand it in talking to (Nottawasaga OPP) detachment commander (Dirk) Cockburn, it's going to be like a shopping list for every occurrence that they have that will be like checking through your groceries at the till,  and that'll be your bill," said Mr. Whiteside. "And you would think it would be possible with today's technology to take our occurrences for a 12 month period and cost that. Can we exert any pressure to try and get them to do that?"

Mr. MacEachern said letters were sent to the Province "early in the process" asking for costing information.

"They haven't completed consultations so we don't know what the price is going to be," he said. "So it's very difficult to have a discussion about whether we agree or don't agree with the pricing model if they haven't arrived at what the pricing model is and it's hard to have a discussion about what position we want to take unless we know exactly what the impact is going to be on us."

Mr. Whiteside said his concern was that the OPP "comprises a large portion of our levy" and couldn't understand why with "today's technology" the Province couldn't have come up with figures based on actual occurrance rates.

"They've indicated generally what the model is they want to move towards," said the mayor. "Comments from smaller municipalities are concerned they'll have to pay the actual cost of policing. All those towns that have been paying a higher cost will want to make sure it's fair and equitable across the board."

The other impact of the contract changes involve the end of the tri-party agreement, which would have to be renegotiated under the new terms, that is if the new model will even require it.

"We've discussed, and we'll discuss here whether or not, once they arrive at exactly the model they're going to present to us, what the benefits would be to us," said the mayor about renewing the tri-party agreement. "I would anticipate from the information I've seen, is (OPP) will be coming to us in the summertime to try and negotiate the next agreement. So there's going to be sometime that's going to be taken by us to evaluate as a council and our staff to evaluate what's the best way forward. It's difficult to bring the item other than there's been some discussion. .... I'm surprised so many are taking a position already without understanding what the model is."

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