Mayor Christo­pher wants change

Christo­pher tells Thur­low res­i­dents area rat­ing for po­lice must be al­tered

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - FRONT PAGE - JA­SON MILLER THE INTELLIGENCER

Mayor Taso Christo­pher waded into the dis­cus­sion about po­lice area rates in Thur­low Wed­nes­day night.

“This is not an easy ex­er­cise to go through,” Christo­pher told a gath­er­ing at the Thur­low Com­mu­nity Cen­tre. “It is very gut-wrench­ing. We need to get the in­for­ma­tion.

“Coun­cil wants to do the right thing and the right thing is hav­ing a level of ser­vice that is af­ford­able,” he said.

The mayor said there are a lot of “goofy things” at­tached to how res­i­dents pay for polic­ing.

“It’s very emo­tional,” he said. “It’s very ex­pen­sive.

“I still know there is an is­sue in the mar­riage between Thur­low and Belleville,” he said of amal­ga­ma­tion.

The area out­side of the Can­nifton sec­ondary plan is de­fined as ru­ral (ac­counts for 204.3 sq., km) and pays four per cent of the over­all polic­ing costs in the city. Ur­ban, is about 45.6 sq., km.

Cur­rently, ur­ban ratepay­ers shoul­der 96 per cent of the net po­lice bud­get of $16.5 mil­lion, while their ru­ral coun­ter­parts are on the hook for $690,200.

“When you look at the num­bers, it’s way out of whack,” Christo­pher said.

“You have 90 per cent of land pay­ing four per cent,” he said. “Then your emo­tions get in­volved and you say you haven’t seen a cop in 10 years. Well, when was the last time you saw an am­bu­lance?”

“There is a bit of an in­equity right now,” said Christo­pher, who lives in the ru­ral area. “We’re only con­tribut­ing $690,000 to a $16 mil­lion port­fo­lio.”

Aatos Le­htila con­tended the mayor’s com­ments, say­ing un­like am­bu­lance, two pri­mary pur­poses of po­lice is to have a pres­ence, so they can de­ter crime, and re­spond­ing to emer­gen­cies.

“You have to have a pres­ence and if there is no pres­ence why are we pay­ing for it?” Le­htila asked.

Bev­erly Townsend pressed the mayor to pro­vide con­vinc­ing data high­light­ing the per­ceived in­equity.

“Based on what data? Give us the quan­ti­ta­tive data,” she said of key pieces needed to de­ter­mine the ra­tio­nale be­hind what could drive a change in the for­mula.

“Staff will look at the data com­po­nent,” the mayor said.

Us­ing a guessti­mate, the mayor said there are ap­prox­i­mately 50,000 calls for ser­vice in Ward 1 and about 2,500 in the ru­ral area, but it’s about the to­tal fig­ure.

There are roughly 8,000 peo­ple and ap­prox­i­mately 3,000 prop­er­ties pay­ing $690,000, he said.

He ref­er­enced com­ments per­tain­ing to po­lice not need­ing to pa­trol farm prop­er­ties which make up a frac­tion of the ru­ral ar­eas.

“That’s true stuff,” he said. “That’s why we try to find that de­nom­i­na­tor.”

Christo­pher, who chairs the po­lice ser­vices board, said com­mu­ni­ties are try­ing to find equa­tions to pay for what he deemed an es­sen­tial ser­vice.

He ad­dressed some at the meet­ing who were rais­ing the idea of bring­ing in the pro­vin­cial po­lice. One at­tendee said while the city pays roughly $17 mil­lion for polic­ing, neighbouring Quinte West is pay­ing much less (about $8.5 mil­lion in 2016).

“We’ve talked about the OPP is­sue,” he said. “It did not get the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil to even con­tinue the dis­cus­sion.”

He said cost would go up if the OPP take over the 204.3 sq., km in the ru­ral area.

“There is no way on this galaxy we’re go­ing to po­lice such a large area for $690,000,” Christo­pher said.

For­mer city coun­cil­lor Ge­orge Beer said res­i­dents should brace for in­creases as costs go up, but “peo­ple want fair ser­vice for the dol­lars they’re pay­ing.”

Beer was on coun­cil fir 27 years and was there when the cur­rent fund­ing for­mula was set up.

“At that time, we set­tled on the four per cent, which we felt was ad­e­quate be­cause we didn’t need a mas­sive ser­vice,” Beer said.

Fast for­ward to now and Beer said it’s de­vel­oped into “a very di­verse area and that’s why this is such a prob­lem.”

JA­SON MILLER/THE INTELLIGENCER

Mayor Taso Christo­pher (first left) and for­mer city coun­cil­lor Ge­orge Beer lis­ten to a pre­sen­ta­tion on po­lice area rat­ing dur­ing a meet­ing at the Thur­low Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

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