Meaford council has delayed a decision on who will provide policing services to the municipality in the coming years, after voting 4-3 in favour of hiring a consultant to review the Owen Sound Police Service proposal and compare to options available from the OPP.
It had been anticipated that council would vote on the topic of police services at their March 24 meeting, however that vote was set aside after Councillor Deborah Young asked council to consider the hiring of a consultant.
Young found the support of Councillors Lynda Stephens and James McIntosh, along with Mayor Francis Richardson, while the other members of council appeared to be ready to vote on the issue.
“I believe that the process that we have been going through is a good example of democracy at work,” said Councillor Barb Clumpus of the process which has included two public input sessions held in Woodford and at Meaford Hall in recent weeks. “The issue for me is that our public has spoken. I think the message here has been very loud and clear. We've listened to very thoughtful, insightful comments from residents, and of the overriding concern for public safety. The proposed cost savings are not the only thing to take into consideration here. We've heard many, many comments from the public, both privately and in public forums.”
Clumpus went on to say that she was elected to represent the residents of Meaford, and she said it is clear to members of council what the public desires with respect to policing the municipality.
“The overriding issue for us right now, is the fact that our public has declared their wishes to stay with our current police force, and we have been elected to represent our constituents, our residents, our taxpayers, and that should be a huge consideration for us in making our decision,” Clumpus told her fellow councillors.
Councillor Stephens countered the comments from Clumpus by making an accusation that the two public meetings were ‘stacked’ with pro-OPP residents, and she further suggested that many residents were too intimidated to speak against the OPP or in favour of the OSPS.
Clumpus said that she has heard no such comments from residents.
With the vote to delay a decision until a consultant retained by the municipality has made their report, it is uncertain at this stage of the timeline for a final decision to be made.
Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman told council that a consultant will likely cost between $25,000-40,000, and that it could be funded from the police services reserve fund which has a balance of approximately $500,000.