January 12, 2018 9:21 am
Updated: January 12, 2018 11:03 am

Peterborough city council to discuss cannabis legislation and police station crowding

Cannabis legalization and a police station special needs study will be the focus at council on Monday.

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After a prolonged winter break, Peterborough city council is set to reconvene Monday night focusing on a pair of items dealing with the local police service.

One is the legalization of cannabis while the other examines the potential and need for a new police headquarters.

Come July 1, it’s expected that cannabis will be legal across Canada but there are still many unknowns around the legislation and impacts on municipalities.

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READ MORE: Fatal drug overdoses spike in Peterborough in 2017

The federal government is taking 25 per cent of the revenue while the province takes the other 75.

“The big question to us that remains unanswered, is what percentage of that 75 per cent will be allocated to the municipalities,” said Patricia Lester, city solicitor and director of legal services.

Peterborough is one of 40 municipalities slated to get a retail pot shop this year, but it’s up to the province to determine where that location will be, Lester noted.

Municipalities are concerned with the costs that will come to them with legalization.

As Lester points out, there will be increased costs to policing and public health and she says they are meeting with these groups to try and forecast the impact of legalization.

“It’s difficult to say what those impacts will be,” said Lester. “As I’ve indicated in my report, the Association of Chiefs of Police are putting together the cost implications for the enforcement aspect but there will also be a cost for health impacts as well.”

The city is joining the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for a conference call later next week with the provincial finance minister to address these concerns.

Lester’s report to city council points out that AMO president Lynn Dollin was at Queen’s Park in November and made it clear municipalities are counting on the provincial government to fully fund these new costs so that councils can continue to pay for all other services that help communities thrive.

READ MORE: Cobourg medical marijuana facility ready to grow

Meanwhile, the city’s top cops and local health officials will be addressing council on Monday on this issue but police also want to discuss its aging headquarters on Water St.

The police board is seeking support to begin a spatial needs study and asking council to support the motion to strike a committee to lead the process.

Built in 1968, the facility underwent a major renovation in 1998 when a second storey was added and another renovation in 2007. But Insp. Lynee Buheler says the Peterborough Police Service is now tight for space and that it’s affecting the day-to-day work operations.

“There have been several business plans that identified that the building here has reached its capacity and that we need to start looking forward to the future and to a larger facility for the number of members that we have working here,” she said.

In 2016, there were 139 sworn-in police officers and 52 civilians employees, and Buehler says that number has since grown.

To put it into perspective, Buehler says the Peterborough headquarters measures just over 34,000 square feet while comparing that to Kingston’s force of equal staff sizes, which operates out of a facility that is closer to 118,000 square feet.

“We’re really looking forward to working with the city,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll see when they come and tour the facility, and actually get down to the brass tax, they’ll see the need for a bigger facility.”

In terms of budgeting, the spatial needs study has already had funds put aside to complete.

It’s now up to council to give the process the green light.

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