News Local

Deep River ponders OPP option

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

OPP Sgt. Carlo Berardi, provincial transition coordinator, contract analyst for the Municipal Policing Bureau, speaks to Deep River council Thursday evening, presenting their plan to provide police services to the town, should the community want them. The town's council chambers were packed to capacity as the public listened in on the costing proposal.

OPP Sgt. Carlo Berardi, provincial transition coordinator, contract analyst for the Municipal Policing Bureau, speaks to Deep River council Thursday evening, presenting their plan to provide police services to the town, should the community want them. The town's council chambers were packed to capacity as the public listened in on the costing proposal.

DEEP RIVER – Deep River is pondering whether to switch from its own town police force to the OPP.

On Thursday evening, town council convened a special meeting to hear out provincial police representatives as they provided the municipality details of what it would cost to enter into a contract with them to provide police services.

Speaking to a packed council chamber, Sgt. Carlo Berardi, provincial transition coordinator, contract analyst for the Municipal Policing Bureau, said the OPP can provide the service the municipality comes to expect, while also providing access to the vast amount of support only a provincial police agency can bear when called on.

He said the OPP will put nine constables on the streets of Deep River, the same strength as currently within the Deep River Police Force, plus back them up administratively, for $1.62 million a year for the first three years. There will also be a one time price in Year One of $218,015 in start up costs, which includes uniforms, equipment and other such expenses.

The town police force’s budget comes in at around $1.5 million.

Inspector Mark Wolfe, the Upper Ottawa Valley OPP detachment commander, said if Deep River signs up with them, their police force will be trained and transitioned into the OPP, becoming its officers. They would be integrated into Upper Ottawa Valley detachment office and assigned to Zone 3, which is west of Petawawa, which will include Deep River.

The town’s initial deal with the OPP will be a “three year plus” transition contract, which covers three full years from the start of the contract, plus the time needed to get to a new year. This gives the OPP time to compile enough data to work out what a base level of service is for the town. Berardi said that usually takes about three years to get an accurate picture.

Once that contract expires, the municipality will then transition into the OPP billing model, which uses that base service, plus total calls for service and other costs to determine what the town will be charged for a particular year. That annual figure from Year Four onwards remains unknown at the present time, a fact which made town councillors nervous.

Deep River Reeve Glenn Doncaster said the costs of emergency services have been rising steadily, and wondered if they could give some indication as to what they could be after the three-year contract expires. Berardi replied there isn’t a way to know so far in advance because so much is out of their direct control. However, he said based on trends over the past few years, OPP costing has remained stable, and in some cases under the new billing model these have gone down.

Coun. Terry Myers said he couldn’t fathom approving of a proposal without getting some indication of what the costs would being the long run, or having something to compare it. He also wondered about the level of service people can realistically expect to get, as he has heard stories from neighbouring municipalities about a lack of police presence which has led to trouble.

Wolfe said whenever issues arise whether it is speeding, an increase in break-ins or vandalism, he can redirect police resources to deal with it.

Coun. Robert McLaren said he also can’t see signing a deal without knowing all of the true costs in advance, adding Deep River already has a wonderful police force, which council has control over.

Deep River Mayor Joan Lougheed said this OPP costing comes in as the result of a request from the previous council, which had been subject to a number of delays, including a moratorium on costings put in place in the fall of 2013 while the police worked out its new funding formula.

She said looking at options is part of their due diligence, and in no way means dissatisfaction with the current police force. Noting the crowds in the council chambers, the mayor said this is an indication of the importance of this matter to the community at large.

All of the latest information about the OPP proposal will be posted on the town’s website. Public consultations will be made a part of this process at a later date. The town has six months in which to make a decision on whether to accept the OPP offer or not.

Staff’s financial analysis of the OPP offer and their report to Deep River council including their recommendations will be presented no later than Feb. 22.

SUhler@postmedia.com