Napanee council suspended its vote on whether to approve a one-year contract extension for police service Tuesday night, almost two months after their deal with the OPP expired.
The town hasn’t signed a new agreement due to a dispute with the province over fair compensation for costs associated with the Quinte Detention Centre. The municipality is currently negotiating with the Ministry of the Solicitor General over the financial impacts of the provincial jail.
According to Napanee Coun. Terry Richardson, the town is not happy with having to pay for the policing costs related to the jail simply because it falls within its borders.
“There are no provisions in the contract portion of the contract policing model to deal with this,” he said in an emailed statement.
In a letter sent to Napanee’s mayor last week, OPP superintendent Phil Whitton said it was clear that the town was not going to make a decision on the contract by the Jan. 31 deadline.
Whitton then gave council until March 31 to decide on three options: sign a new OPP contract renewal for between three and six years, extend the current contract for one year or transition to a non-contract agreement with the OPP.
If the town were to decide to proceed without a contract, there would no longer be a police services board, but the town could elect an advisory committee. This committee could only give guidance and would have no final say in choosing a local OPP detachment commander, or reviewing their performance. The non-contract option would also allow for less eligibility for certain grants, like the RIDE grant.
“As far as the quality of policing or cost of policing, for contract vs non contract policed municipalities, the policing is the exact same, as are the costs,” Richardson noted.
Tuesday, Napanee council opted to take more time to weigh its options, deciding to tackle the topic at its next meeting.
The recommendation to council calls for continued discussions with other municipalities that also have provincial jails or detention centres in their jurisdictions.
Together with those municipalities, councillors hope to push for changes to community benefit agreements, to push the province to cover extra policing costs related to jails and to push for fair payments in lieu of taxation and the reconciliation of outstanding provincial payments.
In the meantime, law enforcement will continue as normal in Greater Napanee, even as funding disputes brew behind the scenes.
But if a decision is not made by March 31, Richardson said the town would automatically default to a non-contract option with the OPP.
Nevertheless, Richardson said this is unlikely.
“I feel quite confident that we as a council can determine whether or not we proceed forward with a contract or without one, prior to March 31st,” he said.
— With files from Global News’ Shauna Cunningham and Alexandra Mazur.