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Saugeen Shores Police host 2nd public meeting on proposed new station
by Sandy Lindsay

August 21, 2016
www.saugeentimes.com

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Concerned residents attended the meeting at Southampton's Town Hall



Police Chief Dan Rivett (L) and Chair of the Police Services Board Luke Charbonneau

The second of two public meetings on the issue of a proposed new police building was held Wednesday, August 17th at Southampton's Town Hall.

Approximately 80 people turned out to listen to the concerns that have been raised by Police Chief Dan Rivett and the Police Services Board over lack of space in, and the conditions of, the existing police building in Port Elgin. 

Rivett advised Council and the Board in a letter in January of the on-going deficiencies of the present building following which a committee was formed that included three members of the public and one from the Police Association to bring forward recommendations to Council following the two public meetings.

As in the first meeting held at the Plex in Port Elgin, the public were invited to come forward with any questions and/or statements regarding a proposed new police building.

Rivett has been offering to take any residents on a tour of the station but, unfortunately, only two people have come forward to find out for themselves the condition of the building.

One, Art Knechtel, a former Southampton Mayor and Police Commission Chair, toured the building and spoke at both the first meeting and the subsequent one.

Knechtel has made it clear that his views are not so much on the building but on the Police Service and the possibility of changing to the provincial police (OPP). 

Art Knechtel

"If we are not going to consider OPP, then we have to move on and get this building issue resolved," said Knechtel.  "This is the most important decision our Council will make.  It is the Council's and Commission's responsibility to provide adequate police services at an affordable cost for the community. With hydro and everything going up, it's going to be tough for the taxpayer."

According to Rivett, there are major concerns, some of which include:

  • secure storage of evidence

  • secure storage of confidential information

  • lack of space for equipment

  • Ministry inspection stating the building is inadequate

  • lack of privacy for victim interviews

  • possibility of civil lawsuits due to lack of privacy rights

  • inadequate space for civil employees

  • inadequate services that include heating

  • inadequate prisoner holding space

John Kyles

 

John Kyles, former President of the Port Elgin Beachers' Association and the Men's Probus Club and a member of Community Watch, said that he has been here every summer since 1942 and is now retired at Gobles Grove.  "We have a first rate police service working out of a second rate building ... they deserve better and so does this community."

Linda Campbell

Linda Campbell, a summer resident according to sources, asked if funding was available.  She also wanted to know why the original builders have not been held accountable. "If the building is in that rough shape who is going to want it?"

She also wanted to know why the downstairs of the Town hall could not be used by the town.

Constable (ret'd) Doug Lein, having been in police service for more than 30 years and having worked out of the former Southampton Police office in the downstairs, explained that the Town Hall was owned by the municipality and is being used by the Art Gallery.

Constable Doug Lein (R) with Chief Dan Rivett (L) and Police Board Chair Luke Charbonneau (R)

"The day we moved into the [existing] police building, it was too small.  There was no room then to put any equipment," he said.  "We are a small complement that is in Saugeen Shores.  When you have OPP, if there is a major incident in another community, all the units from various detachments are sent to that community and those that they come out of are left with no policing.  So, if they are dispatched to a community to assist another detachment, the surrounding communities don't have officers.  They are trained at the same level as we are as we all have to go through the same training process."

Rivett said there are 52 police services across the province with three in Grey County.  When it comes time for budget presentations, Rivett said that his report will have little to do with the building but everything to do with money.  "I pay at home $119 per month for satellite TV and residents pay $477 per year for policing in Saugeen Shores.  We provide a very effective, adequate, highly talented and very economical police service for what we have and what we are given.  It takes the OPP a year and half with a team of people to figure out what it's going to cost to provide policing."

According to Rivett, Saugeen Shores Policing is at the lower end of the scale of cost per capita when compared to other communities.  "We are one of the most economical police services in Ontario."

One resident raised concerns that the province has cut off funding and that it may move to different policing in the future and do away with local policing.  Chair Luke Charbonneau said that the province is currently moving on the Police Act and a legislative review.

Barry Follett, who has been involved with the Police Service for some 14 years, reaffirmed that, if under a regional police service, safety would be compromised if officers were required elsewhere.  He also said that EMS services being included in a new building would provide immediate emergency care.

Barry Follett

"Saugeen Shores is in a very vulnerable situation when it comes to possible litigation due to the inadequacies of the safety and health conditions that exist in the current building.  Let's move forward with a new build."

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Chief Rivett explained that government funding over the years has dried up.  "I should have started screaming 10 years ago when I became Chief ... do something, do something. It would have cost $150/sq. ft. but you try to work with the municipality as best you can and deal with the fiscal realities that everybody has.  I'm a taxpayer too and I don't want to see a major expenditure.  We have bridges that need repairs, sewer and roads that need it too.  To me, this [building] is a critical infrastructure the same as they are and we can't wait 10 years and certainly not for a politician to make up his mind.  Three Chiefs (two past and Rivett) have said 'that the building is not adequate'."

 When a member of the audience questioned the accountability of the past Council and its decision to fund 6,000 sq. ft. instead of the 10,000 sq. ft. originally planned, former Councilor and Deputy Mayor, Doug Freiburger replied. "I was on Town Council in 1999 and it seems that everyone in this room has forgotten the year 2000, when the Province forced amalgamation on us.  We were forced to amalgamate into one community.  The one thing that  you might forget then as well is that when we were forced to amalgamate we lost our transfer funding from Bruce Nuclear.  We used to get $1.6 million a year from Bruce Nuclear and we lost it in one fell swoop."

Doug Freiburger

Freiburger went on to say that the town was taxed with having to build a new police building at that time. "We were taxed with having to keep all of our staff.  We were taxed with having to get our staff into one building.  I think that you forget it and you were not on Council and you didn't have those hard choices to make.  Council did the best job it could at that time to try and make this work.  Yes, we made a mistake.  We should have built 10,000 sq. ft. but we did not have the financial where-with-all to do it but we had to replace our police services building, which we did.  So, I will stand up here as one of the councilors of that day and say ... yes, we as councilors were responsible but I would ask you ... try and do a better job."

Luke Charbonneau said that there was no need to go over the past.  "What we need to do is decide where we are going into the future and how we can solve this problem."

"The time for talk is over," said Gary Brown.  "We  to get Council to make a decision now.  Are we going to talk about this for another 10 years?We have to make a decision."

Zack Mowbray, who has been a volunteer with the Police Auxiliary for over four years, said that " There are issues such as the HVAC that doesn't work.  When I get dressed in uniform, I literally get dressed in a closet surrounded by Darren the DARE bear.  The conditions are deplorable. Tonight this isn't about local policing but I know that if you call 911 you will have two to three police officers within the town of Saugeen Shores respond to you in a timely fashion.  There are cars assigned to Port Elgin and Southampton and the officers are there 80 per cent of the time and the other is to help an officer in one of the communities.  The last shift I was on, I spent almost 10 hours in Southampton, checking stop signs at Miramichi Bay and doing a foot patrol on the main street checking business doors to ensure they were locked.   We are in the community we are assigned to.  We need a new police station and we should stick with municipal policing."

He explained that there may be a possibility to use the existing building for town purposes.  "The Police Board does not own the building but the town may consider using it."

Charbonneau went on to say that he expects the issue of the police services building will be a "hot topic" at Council when the recommendation arrives at budget time.  "This may be something that the taxpayer will have to fund as there simply aren't a lot of other options."


Robbie Davis

Long-time Southampton resident, Roberta (Robbie) Davis said that "It is a gift to live here made more so by our own Saugeen Shores Police Service.  When there are troubles, response time is as fast as possible.  They know the area so well, which is very important.  May the powers that be, do what they have to do to remedy this situation."


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