Some residents in West Grey are upset with a recent motion passed by council.
The Motion of Notice passed at the Dec. 21 council meeting requests a cost analysis of the OPP taking over policing services of the municipality from the West Grey Police Services. It passed by a narrow 4-3 margin.
A Change.org petition started by Robin Brown, titled ‘Save Our West Grey Police Force’, has so far collected nearly 700 signatures. The goal of the petition is to see council rescind the Notice of Motion, passed in December. Local resident Alex Neuman is among those upset with the outcome of the vote.
“We have a really good police force,” he said, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
Neuman said he didn’t understand the rationale behind the motion, brought by Councilor Rebecca Hergert.
“From a cost perspective, they (council) approved the budget increases (for policing),” he said. Neuman also worries the region will see a decrease in actual police services.
“We’re not going to get the same level of service,” he said. “I’d rather have the level of service we have for the money we’re paying.”
Neuman also has an issue with the cost involved in analyzing an OPP quote. $80,000 has been budgeted to hire an outside consultancy firm. At a special West Grey council meeting on Jan. 4, West Grey Chief Administrative Officer Laura Johnston said, “the corporation will have to do its due diligence in reviewing whatever data and proposals the OPP presents to us in the coming months, and to do that unbiasedly and as transparently and with the expertise that will be required, would necessitate us to have an outside consultant to do that work.”
Councilor Geoffrey Shea supported the amount, saying, “We’ve undertaken service and HR reviews of other departments in the municipality, and these costs are totally in line with the amounts we’ve spent on other service reviews. “This seems like a wise investment in doing an objective and thorough analysis.”
Councilor Doug Hutchinson did not agree.
“I can’t really see us spending $80,000 on this,” he said. “I would hope we’re not really looking at replacing our police force with OPP. I think the public have stated very clearly that they’re not interested in that, so I’m not sure why we’d spend $80,000 to even look at it. If people are really, truly really interested in doing something with the OPP, I would suggest making it an election issue, and put it out there as part of your platform.”
“As a taxpayer, I don’t think it’s responsible spending,” he said.
West Grey Police Chief Robert Martin said he had not been aware there was an issue with police service costs, or any desire to seek OPP costing, until he saw the Dec. 21 council meeting agenda.
“The motion was filed, the process began, and we had no input, no feedback,” he said.
Martin said he believes council has the right to seek quotes for policing and other services, but added, “council has never complained about cost. So we’re very confused. Four councilors voted for this motion, and then praised our service. So there’s a mixed message.”
Martin said the news has affected officers’ morale.
“It does affect morale,” he admitted. “It does hang over their heads. Officers who have given 20-plus years of service don’t know if they’ll have to reapply for their jobs.”
The next West Grey council meeting is scheduled for January 18.