Penetanguishene councillors are again split on adopting a new OPP billing model.
During this week's regular meeting, council voted 5-4 in favour of the OPP's police services billing model, but this time with clarity and understanding. The conversation was originally brought up during last month’s committee of the whole meeting, where a set of rare circumstances left a split council approving the OPP billing model through policy over preference.
For this week's meeting, the recommendations within the June committee of the whole report related to the finance and corporate services section was met with discussion once more as Coun. Dan LaRose fought against the approximate $400,000-per-year difference in cost which could possibly affect Penetanguishene residents.
LaRose began by asking if staff had new information pertaining to the June 9 report, to which CAO Jeff Lees responded that there was none.
“We do know that the ministry is anxious to get council’s decision,” said Lees, “as they’re currently working through the billing estimates for the following fiscal year. But no additional information as it relates to the contract, the billing model and the premise of this report.”
A discussion ensued between LaRose, who maintained his resolve to keep Penetanguishene on the current OPP billing model, and Mayor Doug Leroux who supported a change to the new model.
“I don’t believe it’s going to cost us more; it’s going to cost us the same,” said LaRose. “But if we do change, we know then -- from what I’ve been able to get from staff -- is that we’re going to receive a bill for approximately half a million dollars each year going onto the residential tax base. That’s just not acceptable.”
Countered Leroux: "If the ministry doesn’t budge on this then it’s not going to matter one way or the other; we’re going to get billed no matter what the modelling is. From what I understand is that if we stay with the current model it’s going to cost more than the other model."
Leroux asked treasurer Carrie Robillard to enlighten council on the difference, to which she agreed with Lees that there was no additional material change or information to provide.
“What we did receive from the financial representative at the OPP,” explained Robillard, “was an example of what our previous estimated OPP billings would have come in at if we were at the standard OPP billing model already.”
“In a nutshell, the increase related to (lost CNCC recovery), based on OPP examples provided to us, would reduce the hit that we’re going to take on that (from roughly $400,000) by $200,000 or $250,000.”
Robillard also noted that until staff receive the 2022 billing estimate, those examples under previous years standard billing models are what they are working with.
LaRose wasn’t convinced.
"At minimum, we’re still going to get hit with $250,000," he said. "Why would we even be considering this? We should be going forward, making sure that the agreement that’s been in place for the last 20 years is still going to be looked after, and then we’ll decide whether we want to switch to this new OPP billing model or not.”
Leroux retorted: “Again, I have to reiterate to Coun. LaRose that we’re looking at two different matters here: the billing model, and whether or not they’re going to come good with their promise of before. So it’s just a billing model as compared to a pay-or-not-pay.”
Coun. Debbie Levy seconded LaRose’s move for a vote, adding, "I just don’t understand that we’re going to accept this without a fight.”
A new motion by LaRose was put forward that council “do not accept the new billing model at this time, and remain status quo.” It was defeated 4-5.
The original motion to accept the new OPP billing model from June’s meeting was reread and carried 5-4.
Last year, a ministry of the Solicitor General representative notified the town of Penetanguishene that all contracts for the recovery of policing costs of correctional institutions, including the provincially-operated Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC), had been cancelled. A new Community Safety & Policing Act is being initialized by the province, requiring all municipalities to switch to a standard billing model.
Council meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month, with archives hosted on the town of Penetanguishene’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca