BROCKTON – Two years of painstaking work by Brockton Coun. Tim Elphick has finally paid off.
Mayor Chris Peabody recently received word that, starting next year, there will be changes in how the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) bills for charges laid against offenders who fail to appear in court.
As stated in a letter to the mayor from the Municipal Policing Bureau, “We have decided that our method of allocating calls for service costs to municipalities could be improved by removing certain courthouse activity-related occurrence types from our list of billable calls for service. In total, five occurrence types are being removed: ‘fail to attend’ occurrences and four bail violations occurrence types related to offenders being absent from court.”
Peabody explained that it’s long been a sore point with Brockton (and other municipalities that have courthouses) that the host municipality gets billed unfairly for certain calls for service. An offender can be charged in another municipality policed by the OPP, and should that person not appear in court, a call for service is generated. The person might be a resident of, say, South Bruce or Kincardine, the original charges were laid in that municipality, and the person is located in that municipality. But Brockton gets billed for the “fail to appear.”
Peabody said Elphick estimated that over the past five years alone, Brockton has paid well over $100,000 more than it should have.
Initially, Elphick’s research didn’t get much traction.
“At first, they didn’t think he had a case,” said Peabody.
But Elphick kept at it, and it finally paid off.
At this year’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in January, the matter was discussed with Ontario’s attorney general, solicitor general, MPP Lisa Thompson and the OPP Commissioner, Peabody said. At the time, it didn’t appear that much would come of the meeting – the courts were switching to a system that relied more heavily on electronic communications. However, the OPP conducted a review and determined a change was in order.
For Peabody, it goes beyond the potential $25,000 in annual savings for Brockton.
“It’s the ethics of paying another municipality’s bills,” he said.
He noted that thanks to the careful research and determination of a municipal councillor in rural Ontario, the OPP billing model for the entire province is changing.
The change will not result in any retroactive adjustments to previous billing years.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times