A decent number of residents came out to voice their concerns with the Dryden OPP Costing Public Consultation at the Centre last night.
The decision on what direction will be taken with the police forces must be made by May 28th.
The presentation started with an introduction and immediately led to opening remarks by the Dryden Police Chief Doug Palson.
Palson began by mentioning that he is proud of the work that both the Dryden Police Service and OPP do and mentions that the two services currently work together on a lot of initiatives, and they do them well. He also highlights the current difference with the Dryden Police and Provincial Police model as the DPS focuses on a more community model while the OPP has a more regional focus. Palson claimed one of his concerns with the proposal is that the savings predicted from switching over to the new service are assumptions and could potentially cost the city more. He also says he fully supports officers with the Dryden Police Service.
Afterward Staff Sergeant Edward Chwastyk was called up and asked to provide opening remarks as well. Chwastyk mirrored Palson's statement that both services provide excellent work and that they both work together seamlessly as well. He promises that if the local service were to switch over to the OPP model, then they would be seeking to be as efficient with tax dollars as possible. Chwastyk also says they use the best of modern technology, will have a heavy focus on reducing drug trafficking and will also put a focus on being integral in community events like the Community Services Officer at the Dryden Police Service.
After St/Sgt Chwastyk's opening remarks, Chad Lins was called to the podium to do a quick presentation of the report that was originally presented on March 4th to ensure everyone was caught up. Afterward started the Q&A session and the people of Dryden definitely had a lot of questions of concern for all groups involved in the process.
One of the first questions was raised by Tom Riley about the numbers related to calls for service and asking if they were comparing overall number of calls or taking into account what types of calls were made.
The response was that they weren't looking at what each individual calls were about, but were focused on overall calls for service volumes.
Michelle Williams raised a question about regional patrols as the Dryden Police Service has a minimum of two officers on patrol in an area of 66 square kilometers while the OPP covers 16 000 kilometers and she was wondering what kind of local coverage there would be.
St/Sgt Chwastyk says they do zone policing and Dryden counts as its own zone and outside highway areas count as other zone. He expects 5 or 6 in the area most of the time with 3-4 of them in the Dryden zone.
Former Dryden Mayor Craig Nuttal voiced his concerns too, mainly about the financials behind the decision. Nuttal asked where they could get the money from.
Treasurer Steven Lansdell-Roll said that he couldn't say much, but he says they couldn't borrow money for the initial cost so it would have to come out of reserves.
Nuttal said that he feels this isn't necessary as the city already has a good police force and cited some problems the Kenora OPP have been facing after they switched over to the provincial model.
Another question was raised about how much it would cost to switch back if people were unhappy with the new provincial model.
CAO Roger Nesbitt responded mentioning that it would be very tough and expensive to switch back and probably not an option the city could do.
Colleen Oliphant was the next person to ask questions, and she asked the OPP what they can give the community that the Dryden Police Service doesn't already do. She also says she has concerns with what would happen with DPS officers if there was a change and about a potential wait list for OPP officers.
St/Sgt Chwastyk responded by saying that it isn't really a competition and they aren't there to compare services. He also mentions that's why the consultants were brought in in order to compare and let people decide what they want. Chwastyk also says if there was a change then Dryden Police Members would be considered first in the application process before they would look at the wait list.
Local Business Owner and Former Councillor Justice Leschied also asked questions, mainly about how the final decision would be made hoping that it would come down to a vote by the citizens of Dryden as that what he says the council previously stated.
CAO Roger Nesbitt says that it is up to council decision at the moment to how the final decision will be made. Leschied responded by saying that the decision must be made by the citizens of Dryden as it should be up to the people.
Kathy Zilkans also raised a question about extra billable services and asks what they are and how much that could affect taxpayers in Dryden.
The answer was that any extra billable costs are estimated in the current proposals and the services include things like Overtime and prison transfers and residents shouldn't notice a significant difference in taxes.
Bob Stevens came asked question about the expansions that would be required at the OPP Detachment and if the costs of those expansions are a part of the proposal.
The answer is that there is a one-time cost allotted for the expansion in the proposal.
Geri Oliphant asked what would be happening with the current Dryden Police building.
There was no clear answer on that question as there are no current plans that have been considered for the building if the change were to happen.
Shortly after a quick question about if the online survey would be used to make the decision and cited concerns about out-of-region people filling out the survey.
CAO Roger Nesbitt simply says the survey is being used to add to the data collection along with all of the other ways they are collecting data on the issue.
The next question was asked about how Dryden Police has a Community Service Officer and was wondering if the OPP would have one as well if they were to take over.
St/Sgt Chwastyk says he couldn't make any guarantees, but he thinks that is something they would implement as he believes the work the current officer does is very valuable.
With a few more quick questions and comments presented the meeting came to an eventual close.
Dryden Mayor Greg Wilson says he is happy with the turn out of the event and is glad people are bringing their concerns forward. Wilson also hopes residents continue to reach out to council and send in or ask even more questions so they can stay informed on what the people of Dryden think about the issue.
President of the Dryden Police Association Scott Silver says he has been a part of a few meetings and has a few points he wanted people to know. Silver mentions that there are no guaranteed savings, but there will be an initial cost to worry about for sure. He also says the number one concern of the Dryden Police is what happens in the city while the OPP has a more regional focus. Silver highlights response times as he says they can make it to a scene in 2 minutes with 10 as a maximum while the OPP couldn't guarantee a time. He also brings up how the Dryden Police Service has been fiscally responsible and very consistent as opposed to the OPP costs which could vary in the next few years.
President of the Senior Officers Association Ann Tkachyk says she is happy to see the support of the City of Dryden at the meeting and says the local police deserve the recognition as they have been operating very well for a long time. Tkachyk also mentions it is easy to predict the budget of the Dryden Police Service over the next 5 years while there are more variables with the OPP and DPS is also nationally recognized as well. She also says she was hoping to hear more about other police services that have had struggles after switching to the OPP model and police services who switched back after an initial change to the OPP.
For all of the publicly available info on the proposal CLICK HERE