By Stephen Vance, Staff
A second public input meeting on the topic of options for policing in Meaford is being held Wednesday March 19, in the opera house at Meaford Hall.
The meeting will begin at 7 pm, and as with the first public meeting on the issue at Woodford Hall in February, representatives from both the OPP and the Owen Sound Police Service will be attending the meeting along with members of Meaford’s council and senior staff.
The February 13 meeting in Woodford drew a large crowd who were seemingly overwhelmingly supportive of Meaford remaining with the OPP, even if costs savings could be found by switching to the Owen Sound Police Service.
Before the February 13 meeting began, a letter from Owen Sound Police Services Board Chair, Garth Pierce was distributed to the public an media. In that letter Pierce expressed frustration with some of the questions and suggestions made at the February 10 meeting of council when the staff report on policing was first submitted to council.
“While I was disheartened by the comparison of the Owen Sound Police Service to “Barney Fife”, I feel that this will address the professional abilities of the Owen Sound Police Service,” wrote Pierce.
The eight page document outlined the professional abilities of Owen Sound police officers and their police service.
Meaford’s CAO Denyse Morrissey, and Treasurer Darcy Chapman told those in attendance that after an exhaustive review of Meaford’s policing needs, and an analysis of the proposal submitted by Owen Sound, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars could be saved in the five years of the proposed Owen Sound policing contract.
Savings or not, even in rural Meaford, where budget slashing and tax reductions are never far away from any conversation, the overwhelming message to councillors was that residents are happy with their OPP service, even if it costs more than what is included in the Owen Sound proposal.
After the initial presentation from Morrissey and Chapman, resident after resident rose to express concerns about the accuracy of the Owen Sound proposal, and to indicate their preference to stay on with the OPP.
Of the dozens of residents who rose to speak during the two hours of public questions and comments, only one resident suggested that the cost savings claimed in the staff report warranted taking a chance on a switch to the Owen Sound Police Service.
In addition to council members and residents, the meeting was attended by Grey County OPP Detachment Commander, Inspector Mike Guilfoyle along with other OPP representatives, and Owen Sound Police Chief Bill Sornberger along with representatives from his police service and Owen Sound police board members.
Residents posed questions to both police services as well as to council and staff during the meeting.
The Wednesday March 19 meeting at 7:00 pm at Meaford Hall will give more residents an opportunity to ask questions, and express opinions before council makes a final decision about who will police Meaford in the coming years.