By Stephen Vance, Staff
A report dated March 4, 2014, was sent to Meaford’s council from the OPP’s Superintendent-Commander of their Municipal Policing Bureau, Rick Philbin, that identifies areas of Meaford’s staff report on policing options for the municipality that the OPP claim are false or misleading.
In that report, Philbin says that in Meaford CAO Denyse Morrissey’s initial report, the Owen Sound Police Service’s perceived costs are compared to the OPP’s estimated costs.
“The concern we have is the CAO’s report does not contain the OPP costs for policing after they have been reconciled to actuals. The cost for the OPP to police the Municipality of Meaford, has on average over the past four years been 8.5 percent less than the estimated OPP policing costs provided each year,” wrote Philbin.
When the annual reconciliation is factored in (Meaford receives an annual rebate cheque for any overages in the OPP estimate for the year), Philbin says that the difference between the OPP cost, and the OSPS proposal is far less than indicated in Meaford staff reports.
“For example, the difference between the OSPS first year costs ($1,785,007) as found on the chart contained in the CAO’s report on page 3, versus the OPP estimated cost ($1,821,352) under a 5.1 arrangement is $36,345 more for the OPP. However the OPP costs, as found in the CAO’s report are estimated costs. The OSPS numbers are what they project to be actual costs,” wrote Philbin, who added that on average, the actual cost of OPP policing in Meaford has been 8.5 percent less than the estimated costs the CAO used in her report.
The second bone of contention for the OPP was the assertion that Meaford is required to provide a facility for the OPP to operate from, and the cost of that facility has been reported in Meaford staff reports to be $50,000 per year, or $275,000 over the five year term of the OSPS proposal. The OSPS has indicated in their proposal that they require a minimum 700 square foot storefront office which Meaford CAO Darcy Chapman has estimated would cost the municipality $10,000 per year based on a 1,000 square foot space at $10 per square foot lease rates – or $40,000 per year less than what staff reports the cost is for the OPP space provided by the municipality.
However, Philbin says that there is no requirement at all for the municipality to provide space for the OPP detachment.
“When the OPP began policing the Municipality of Meaford in 2002, the Council at the time made the decision to maintain a police facility in Meaford,” noted Philbin, however, “The Municipality of Meaford has no obligation to provide the OPP with a building. Should council decide not to provide a building, the cost to the Municipality of Meaford would be $588 for accommodation, and $303 per cleaning per uniform full-time equivalent (FTE), as per the Municipal Cost Recovery Formula.”
A March 21 report to council from Meaford’s CAO offered councillors an update with this clarified information, and said that based on the formula provided, the building costs would drop from $50,000 per year to $10,754 per year based on a FTE staffing of 12.07, though the CAO added “Staff will also need to finalize, with the OPP, the utilization of this approximately 5,700 square feet based on the current per square foot cost of $9.20.”
That adjustment alone says the CAO in her report, would mean that the five year cost of a section 5.1 contract with the OPP – which the municipality has been policed under since December – would be $9,947,855, compared to $9,410,276 proposed by the OSPS, which means that the OPP would still be $537,579 more expensive (or slightly more than $100,000 per year) than the proposed cost of the OSPS.
However, many residents have expressed concern about moving from a uniformed police officer as a school liaison as provided by the OPP, to a civilian to perform those duties, as proposed by the OSPS.
While the municipality has rightly pointed out that a school liaison officer is not included in the section 5.1 contract with the OPP, Philbin says that the Grey County Detachment Commander has continued to included this position at no charge to the municipality.
“Currently there is a uniform OPP officer assigned the duties of School Resource Officer (SRO) within the Municipality of Meaford. This is at the discretion of the Detachment Commander. This invaluable service has been provided to Meaford under a section 10 policing agreement and continues to be provided under the current section 5.1 arrangement,” explained Philbin.
The March 21 report from the CAO includes an updated proposed costing from the OSPS which includes a uniform officer for the schools. That proposed cost is $9,860,612, compared to the $9.4 million proposed without that position included.
That means that the proposed cost of the OSPS with the school officer enhancement is just $87,243 less than the OPP over the five year term, or an average annual savings of roughly $17,500 when compared to the current 5.1 contract with the OPP, which can be terminated by the municipality with 30 days notice.
Philbin also pointed out in his March 4 report to Meaford’s council that while the minimum number of officer hours are included in their contracts, history shows that over the last four years, the OPP has provided an average of 2,343 additional hours each year at no additional cost to the municipality.
A feature of the OSPS proposal that has been attractive to Meaford residents is the publicly accessible storefront police office specified in the proposal. This would allow residents the ability to visit the office during daytime working hours either to report a crime, or to complete forms required for things like criminal background checks required by some employers and volunteer organizations.
Currently, Meaford residents seeking those kinds of services from the OPP need to visit the Chatsworth detachment of the OPP.
In her March 21 memo to council, CAO Morrissey notes that the OPP has estimated an additional cost of $74,900 annually in order to offer administrative support for a public front office, though this cannot be provided under the section 5.1 contract that Meaford is currently under with the OPP.
Another consideration that has frequently been pointed out by municipal staff as well as residents at public meetings held on the issue is the uncertainty of future costs for the OPP given that the organization is currently in the midst of a cost and billing review and potential overhaul, leaving municipalities to speculate on what the revised rates will be.
An answer to that question is expected later this year.
To read the full report from the OPP to council, click here.
** Editor’s Note: Meaford CAO Denyse Morrissey contacted us to point out that while we quoted extensively from her March 21 memo to council, we neglected to quote from her March 18 response to the OPP report. To read the CAO response to the OPP report, click here.
To read the CAO’s March 21 report, click here.