At their September 8 meeting, Meaford's council was presented with a report from consultants hired to assess the police services options available to the municipality after a proposal from the Owen Sound Police Service, and as a new billing model for the Ontario Provincial Police is being rolled out.
Members of council had many questions for the consulting firm who has recommended that Meaford base their decision on police services on the lowest cost, a recommendation that some members of council found to be short sighted.
The report from Asymmetric Consulting suggested that both the OPP and the OSPS provide equally effective policing for Meaford making cost the only factor that differentiates the two choices.
Not all councillors agreed. Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield said that the lowest cost recommendation raised red flags for him, while Councillor Mike Poetker expressed concern about factors other than lowest cost that could have a significant impact on the community.
“Zeroing in on your statement that any decision we make be based on the lowest cost, I'm going to challenge that,” Poetker said to Rudy Gheysen of Asymmetric Consulting. “I suggest that it should be based on the greatest economic benefit, and the socio-economic benefit that we're not talking about.”
Poetker reminded his fellow councillors that should Meaford opt to switch police services, roughly 10 OPP officers who currently live in the municipality would likely be relocated, taking their incomes, and their taxes, and their buying power out of the community, while Owen Sound officers who would begin and end their shifts in Owen Sound are unlikely to relocate to Meaford.
“I think that's very important in our small town. It's a huge potential for loss of income in this community when you suddenly take out a large percentage of good wage earners,” offered Poetker.
The consultants suggest that Meaford could save between $200,000 and $1.3 million over four years by switching police services, a savings of between $50,000 to $325,000 per year, though it is difficult to estimate OPP costing as Meaford won't receive a formal costing until late September at the earliest.
Councillor Lynda Stephens, who has expressed support for switching police services over the last several months, said that the majority of phone calls she has received on the policing issue have been supportive of switching to the OSPS, and she indicated that she would bring a resolution to the Wednesday September 10 public meeting at Meaford Hall that would direct staff to negotiate a policing contract with the Owen Sound Police Service. Council could vote on the issue at that meeting which begins at 6:30 pm.