Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones, council members and the Woodstock Police Force Chief Gary Forward want to hear about policing concerns from residents throughout the expanded town.
They also want to share what residents can expect police coverage to look like over the next few years.
To this end, the town will host an open house on Monday, Sept. 25, at the AYR Motor Centre fieldhouse.
“Mayor and council are looking to share with all residents in the Woodstock Municipality what the future of policing in our community will look like for the foreseeable future,” the town said in a notice posted on its website. “The Chief of Police and Mayor Jones will provide an opportunity for residents to ask questions and voice any concerns they may have. Council members will also be on hand for a meet and greet for the first 30 minutes.”
The open house will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The future of policing in Woodstock, an ongoing topic of debate for several years, took on greater relevance since the town’s amalgamation with outlying local service districts on Jan. 1.
Currently, the Woodstock Police Force covers only Woodstock’s Ward 4, the town’s historical boundaries. The other four wards all fall under the jurisdiction of Western Valley Region RCMP.
Earlier this year, at the provincial government’s request, the town and police force created a study, including staffing and financial requirements, detailing the feasibility of the Woodstock Police Force expanding coverage to all wards.
During the Sept. 12 council-in-committee meeting, Mayor Jones reiterated, as she had previously, the high costs and extended timeline associated with any change of that magnitude.
During that meeting, Jones announced plans for the open house, explaining she hoped to see the event spark “a conversation about policing now and going forward.”
During the regular council meeting, which followed the council-in-committee meeting, Cpl. James Gallant and Sgt. Dan Sharpe of the Western Valley Region RCMP offered a brief presentation regarding its regional efforts, including Woodstock’s rural areas.
Chief Forward and the RCMP officers noted the close working relationship between the two forces.
Mayor Jones acknowledged the town and the province are looking at restructuring police coverage throughout New Brunswick, but that remains well into the future.
“The RCMP are not going anywhere soon,” she said.
Jones said she hopes residents from all wards will attend Monday’s open house. She said it would provide an opportunity to hear their major concerns and allow her and Chief Forward to outline their long-term vision for policing in Woodstock.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun