Other communities, like Orangeville haven’t been able to pin down the OPP on year 4+ costs nor project them with any accuracy, causing them to reject the move to OPP. Miraculously, our Mayor and CAO have been able to project 8 million in savings over 10 years… a claim now completely debunked by many in the community and the Midland Police service itself.
Orangeville: Representatives of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) informed members of the public last Thursday (April 27) that they would have to use a yet-to-be-released internet application if they wanted to accurately project what their future annual policing bill would be should the Town of Orangeville decide to adopt a provincial policing service.
Over 100 local residents were on hand at Orangeville District Secondary School as the debate surrounding the future of the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) roared on. Ever since the Town sought a costing proposal from the OPP in early 2014, there has been continued speculation that a shift to the provincial model could represent significant savings for taxpayers.
Town Treasurer Marc Villeneuve effectively poured gasoline on those suggestions when he presented his analysis on the OPP’s costing proposal to council early last month. In those calculations, Mr. Villeneuve estimated the municipality could potentially save $4.5 million a year if they were to disband the OPS and sign an agreement with the OPP.
Those numbers though have yet to be supported by anybody affiliated with the OPP, with several representatives from the force again refusing to give a solid costing proposal beyond an initial three-year transitional period, which the OPP provided in February.
During that meeting, Sgt. Kevin Hummel, a contract analyst with the OPP’s Municipal Policing Bureau, told council that total costs during that three-year transitional contract – where the municipality will pay an inflated rate under the OPP’s old Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) system before switching to its new “game changing” billing model – would top out at almost $22.9 million, or $3.9 million less than what the OPS projects to spend over the same time frame ($26.8 million). Under the new billing model, Mr. Villeneuve estimates the municipality would stand to save just over $23 million on its policing bill between 2021 and 2025 if it were to opt for the OPP.
Responding to one resident’s demands that the OPP provide some clarity on the situation, Linda Davis, another of the provincial body’s contract analysts, noted that the OPP does not endorse Mr. Villeneuve’s estimates.
“No, we would not stand by those figures,” Ms. Davis told a crowded assembly hall. “However, having seen the figures, we can see how the Treasurer has arrived at those numbers and we do not disagree with the methodology.”
That’s as good an answer on the financials as the public received all evening, despite continuous attempts from some to push for a more definitive answer.
“How can you expect our council to make an informed decision when they don’t know all the numbers,” one resident proclaimed, to rapturous applause.
Another local, Kelli Maddocks, asked who would be held accountable if council were to make a decision based on the estimates provided by Mr. Villeneuve and they turned out to be incorrect.
“I think most of our councillors are basing their decision on that $4.5 million (savings) number. Who is to blame if things go south and those numbers (aren’t accurate), do we ask for Mr. Villeneuve to resign? Do we ask for Mr. Brennan (Town CAO) to resign? Who would be held accountable to the people that will be losing jobs? Who will be accountable to us?” Ms. Maddocks said.
While most of the evening’s focus surrounding the potential financial implications a transition to the OPP could have on the municipality, there were also those in attendance concerned that the provincial entity, which currently serves 323 communities across Ontario, would not be able to provide the same standard or quality of service currently provided by the OPS.
One resident asked if the OPP would be able to provide the same level of backing to local service and community clubs in town that the OPS, and more specifically Chief Wayne Kalinski, have given, while another queried as to how the provincial service provider would deal with potentially sensitive situations involving people with mental or physical disabilities.
“Right now, we know what kind of service we receive from the OPS. We know how they handle things,” James Jackson said. “Myself, I have a physical disability and walk around with a large (walking stick). To some, this could be seen as a weapon but to OPS officers who know me, they realize it’s something I need to move around.”
He added, “Because the province has a certain way of doing things, because it’s more systemized with so many officers coming in and moving out, can you tell me how you’re going to know if people are bipolar, schizophrenic or suffer from a physical disability and require a different kind of approach?”
Staff Sgt. Nicol Randle, acting commander of the OPP’s Dufferin detachment, which would extend its services to include Orangeville under any potential agreement with the Town, said the OPP would have no problems maintaining the current levels of policing service in Orangeville as it would largely be the same force out and about in the community on a daily basis.
“Should amalgamation occur, it’s a switch of the flash,” Ms. Randall said, referring to the patch on a uniform sleeve that highlights what police force the officer represents. “If Orangeville were to adopt the OPP as its police service, we would have the very same officers (as the OPS currently has) using the same skill sets, so there should be no difference (in quality of service).”
As a part of its contract proposal, the OPP has committed to taking on any OPS officer considered to be “in good standing,” according to Staff Sgt. Liane Spong-Hooyenga, also of the OPP’s Municipal Policing Bureau.
Although the OPS was represented on stage by Chief Kalinski and Sgt. Dave McLagan, the public focused more attention on the four OPP representatives, who mainly reserved their comments for topics such as fiscal responsibility and plans to manage the town’s well documented growth spurts in recent years. However, Chief Kalinski closed with a brief message thanking those in attendance for taking an interest in the future of policing services in Orangeville.
“The Orangeville Police Service is a professional, dedicated service and we take pride in what we do and I want to thank the staff of Orangeville Police for what they do each and every day,” Chief Kalinski said. “We appreciate everyone taking the time to come out tonight and get informed. Now, you have an opportunity to (let) your councillors and your mayor know how you feel. It’s important to let them know.”
While councillors did their best to stay out of the limelight over the course of the meeting, much to the dismay of some in attendance, most of those present had their say on the future of policing in Orangeville following Thursday night’s gathering.
Coun. Don Kidd said he has still yet to come to a final decision in his mind regarding the “best outcome” for the municipality as it considers the future of its policing services, while Coun. Scott Wilson and Mayor Jeremy Williams were a little more open with their opinions on what has become the most talked-about issue in the community over the past few months.
“I make no qualms about it, I will be voting in favour of the OPP when this comes to council because I want to see the savings for the Town. It’s important for me to point out that I’m not in favour of OPS and I’m not in favour of the OPP. I’m in favour of the savings,” Coun. Wilson said. “The savings is always what I’ve been interested in. It’s always been about the money for me. When you’re campaigning that’s what people want to know – how you can cut taxes.”
He added, “This is the best opportunity we’ve had to cut taxes since I’ve been involved (in municipal politics) and that’s 10 years now, so I’ve got to put my money where my mouth is and recognize that if there’s an opportunity to make significant savings going with a service that will be the same or better, I’m going to vote to take the savings.”
Mayor Williams echoed the same sentiments he’s been pushing throughout this entire process – that he will be voting the way the public wants him to vote when this issue comes before Council again in coming weeks.
“Based on what I saw tonight, (the public) is overwhelmingly in support of the OPS. If there’s one thing I learned this evening, it’s how passionate people are about protecting the OPS,” Mayor Williams said. “From what I’ve seen, it looks like around 85 percent of the people support OPS and aren’t terribly concerned about the savings one way or the other. Then there’s 15 percent that have bought the Kool-Aid and they believe it’s big, huge savings (going with the OPP).”
He added, “When you hear direct from the OPP’s mouth that they don’t know (what the savings are going to be) and they can’t give us a direct amount, then we don’t know what it is. We shouldn’t guess. If this is a decision some people are basing solely on money, then we definitely shouldn’t be (going with the OPP) because we don’t know what their numbers are. It’s that simple.”
In conclusion, Mayor Williams said that while he recognizes both the OPP and OPS are “very good” police forces, he would be siding with the local outfit when the issue comes to vote.
“I have to represent the people of Orangeville. Right now, based on this meeting and based on the word of OPP representatives, there’s no concrete savings by switching. Right now, it’s a maybe. I can’t hang my hat on a maybe. While I recognize that both are very good police forces, as far as quality goes you can’t beat a custom-made police service, not when it’s compared to a province-wide service run by Queen’s Park,” Mayor Williams finished.
Now that council has had the opportunity to hear from the OPP, OPS and the public, all three members of council said they expect the issue to come back before council sooner rather than later. The OPP says a final decision on whether the town will be switching its policing services must be presented to them by August.
By: Mike Picford – Orangeville Citizen – May 4th 2017