Meaford's senior staff has reviewed and analyzed the proposal submitted by the Owen Sound Police Service, and they have presented a report to council with their conclusions.
After reading the report, it is clear that senior staff is in favour of abandoning the OPP in favour of the Owen Sound Police Service, and they estimate that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars could be saved over the next five years.
The position of staff is understandable. Those working for municipal administrations are under constant pressure to find cost savings in order to either hold the line on tax increases, or to enable a council to announce tax cuts.
Based on the information provided by the Owen Sound Police Service, staff has rightly steered council in the direction of the apparently cheaper proposal. That's their job – a never-ending quest for efficiencies and savings.
For their part, council was doing their job on Monday – while staff can focus on the numbers, our elected representatives must now weigh the apparent cost savings against what is best for their constituents.
After staff presented their report, questions from members of council were well thought out, and did not really touch on the dollars and cents at all.
One question from Councillor Young expressed concern about having only heard “bad things” about the Owen Sound police, and she asked if we would be “getting Barney Fife” should Meaford opt to sign a contract with Owen Sound. The Chief would have been right to have been offended by such a suggestion.
It is hard to imagine any police force in Ontario, or Canada for that matter, that is significantly inferior to the others. We have enough provincial legislation, training requirements, policies and procedures, that we can truly be confident that any police force in Ontario can adequately and safely protect our community.
I have no doubt that the Owen Sound Police Service would provide appropriate policing for Meaford, but the question of the accuracy of the numbers contained in the Owen Sound proposal remains.
After Councillor Michael Poetker asked the Owen Sound police chief if he felt that the $10,000 per car for fuel included in the proposal was enough, the response was somewhat surprising, but it should also provide a very good reason for everyone to step back, and not rush into anything too quickly.
“We don't know the distances because we haven't policed here,” said the Chief, who also conceded, “It may not be enough.”
With all due respect to the folks that put together the Owen Sound proposal (a consulting firm, not the police service itself), if something as basic as fuel requirements haven't been nailed down, how can we be confident in the accuracy of the rest of the proposal?
The Municipality of Meaford covers quite a large area – 588.6 square kilometres to be precise. If you've ever driven from the urban centre to Bognor, or from the far reaches of Sydenham to Old Mail Road in St. Vincent, you can appreciate the distances to be travelled by those who police our community.
$10,000 in fuel for one car (the proposal includes two patrol cars, with $10,000 budgeted for each car per year) translates into $27.40 per day, or $13.70 per 12 hour shift. Keep in mind that in the Owen Sound proposal it is clearly indicated that officers’ shifts would begin and end in Owen Sound.
Police cruisers use approximately 12 litres per 100 kilometres (20 mpg).
Using a price of $1.20 for fuel, the $13.70 per shift available for fuel will buy 11 litres.
The distance from the Owen Sound/Meaford boundary to downtown Meaford is 30 kilometres – which will use $3.60 of the fuel allotment in each direction, so that will gobble up $7.20 of the $13.70 budgeted for fuel in the Owen Sound proposal, leaving $6.50 to fuel the patrol car for the balance of the 12 hour shift.
$6.50. Just doesn't sound right does it?
And that's if they are moving all the time. As everyone is aware, police cruisers spend a lot of time idling.
Another question that deserves consideration: If the cost per capita to Owen Sound residents for their police force is roughly $335, how is it possible that Owen Sound can police Meaford for half that amount? If I lived in Owen Sound, I would be asking why Meaford would get such a great deal compared to Owen Sound residents.
The decision now rests with Meaford's councillors. Hopefully they will ask as many questions as possible, and not rush into anything.