Are Amherstburg taxpayers missing out on cost comparisons and potential savings?
Commentary by Linda Saxon
On November 14, 2017, I emailed CAO Miceli for the Request For Proposal.
Since I received no response from Miceli, on November 19 I emailed everyone on council requesting it from them.
Following some misunderstanding about what I was actually requesting, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo advised me that the Request For Proposal was public and would be forthcoming.
The next day, on November 20, Miceli emailed the RFP AMHERSTBURG POLICE SERVICES.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
I submitted the following to be placed on council’s agenda, cc’d to members of council:
I request that you adhere to your commitment to obtaining an OPP costing and to follow the procedure set out in the OPP Information Manual, which includes community consultation.
This council has sought RFPs for legal services: “I just think it is fiscally responsible,” said Courtney, adding her belief that there are other firms that could give a competitive rate to the town.
Council also sought a Request for Proposals (RFP) to try and get more costings for the mosquito situation. Miceli also stated in his report to council that an RFP would address accountability and transparency issues as sole-sourcing the service could cause a political backlash. An RFP would also see if the town could get more value for their money, he added.
An RFP was issued for the Concession 2 North bridge.
The only way taxpayers will know if they are getting the most effective and efficient policing service is by a full cost comparison, which would include the OPP.
Our community deserves the full benefit of a cost comparison of all policing options as well as public meetings regarding the highest budget item.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
The River Town Times article, OPP Does Not Give Costing by Ron Giofu, reports, in part, that DiCarlo didn’t doubt the OPP provides an excellent police service, he said he didn’t understand their costing model. He said while the town understands it would get “adequate and effective” policing from the OPP, “they won’t tell us exactly what that means.”
I would have thought that as an Amherstburg Police Services Board member, Mayor DiCarlo would have access to the Police Services Act, (PSA) that stipulates every municipality shall adequate and effective services in accordance with its needs and sets out, at a minimum what that must include.
Also, the October 20, 2017 Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process reiterates the same and also includes information about the Police Adequacy and Effectiveness Standards Regulation under the PSA :
“The Police Adequacy and Effectiveness Standards Regulation (Adequacy Standards) helps ensure the effective delivery of policing services. It was filed as O.Reg. 3/99 on January 8, 1999.
The regulation was part of the government’s overall strategy to provide Police Services Boards (PSB) and police services, the structure and tools they needed to ensure adequacy and effectiveness. All police services were to be in compliance by January 1, 2001.
Additionally, the regulation required all PSBs to develop a plan, setting out the steps needed to be taken by the board and the police service in order to meet the requirements of the regulation.
The Adequacy Standards regulation content is high level. It provides flexibility in implementation, including service delivery i.e. contracting with another police service or organization, or providing crime prevention initiatives on a regional or cooperative basis.
The primary focus of the Adequacy Standards regulation is on what police services do, and not how they should do it. Overall, it is designed to ensure that all Ontarians receive core police services.”
The OPP’s Information Manual clearly sets out costing timelines and steps, and oh, look at step 6:
“Municipal Council Consideration/Public Consultation and Decision.”
Have Amherstburg taxpayers been denied an opportunity to compare and provide input on ALL police costing proposals? Since it is only after council’s decision to move forward with the ‘local’ or Windsor Police options, I have to ask, as Mayoral candidate Aldo DiCarlo did during the 2014 campaign: “Did a single one of the current council members do their due diligence in requesting an OPP costing early enough so that we could have reviewed our options now that the contract is being negotiated? I believe the answer is no, and I’d be happy to be wrong.”
In response to the Commentary, “No Commitment To Remove OPP Clause In Police Contract,” then- Mayoral Candidate Aldo DiCarlo’s full comment posted on October 17, 2014 was:
This is an issue that I have spent a considerable amount of time on, specifically because of the large potential savings, $1M or more. At last night’s debate, Deputy Mayor Suttherland stated that an OPP costing takes at least 18 months. As a taxpaying resident, not a just a mayoral candidate, this both angers and frustrates me. If it does indeed take this amount of time, why then did not a single council member make the motion to request the OPP costing. If one of them did, I would like to know who and why it was voted down. ALL contracts have an expiry date. Did a single one of the current council members do their due diligence in requesting an OPP costing early enough so that we could have reviewed our options now that the contract is being negotiated? I believe the answer is no, and I’d be happy to be wrong.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
RE: Amherstburg reviews policing proposal from Windsor by Julie Kotsis, The Windsor Star
In my opinion, the Town of Amherstburg did a disservice to its taxpayers when it issued a policing Request for Proposal that ‘emulated the same level of service that we presently have.’
No wonder Windsor was the only police service to meet the RFP guidelines, which include a top- heavy hierarchy mirrored in other municipal police services but unparallel in OPP detachments.
Had Amherstburg elected officials not persistently maintained a municipal police service since its 1997 amalgamation with Anderdon and Malden, taxpayers could have realized an approximate one million dollar savings annually.
The then-Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services decided the newly amalgamated police service should have allowed for adequate and effective policing if the proposal was implemented as presented; it was for a while.
Three patrol zones were proposed with 24 hour a day policing and a maximum strength per 12 hour shift of six officers: 3 in Zone 1, 1 in each of Zones 2 and 3 and another officer would support all three zones as may be required.
By 2010, the Amherstburg Police Service Annual Report noted, “The Town is divided into 2 patrol zones ensuring that all areas receive an ongoing police presence.” Amherstburg Police Chief Berthiaume would not provide me with information relative to my 2011 request for the number of days in that year where less than four officers were on patrol.
In addition to the change in patrol zones, the police services board and police association agreed to a ‘poison pill’ contract clause that would cost taxpayers heavily if the municipality ever decided to choose OPP policing. Both parties should have known it was unnecessary because no policing model would have been approved unless officers were dealt with fairly and there was an arbitration process if necessary.
Policing was a hot election campaign issue in 2014 when residents questioned candidates about committing to council obtaining an OPP costing and/or removing the ‘poison pill’ clause. the burg watch posted all questions from residents and all candidates’ answers provided during the 2014 election campaign.
Mayoral candidate Aldo DiCarlo stated, in part, “I would definitely acquire this information, if given the chance, and then work with the appropriate parties to achieve what’s best for the Town, or more importantly, what the Town feels is best for them.”
Councillor candidate Jason Lavigne stated, “I believe there should be a cost comparison between the opp and our local service done. In order to get a true idea of the possible cost savings the “poison pill” needs to be addressed. Unfortunately this can only be done by the police services board and not council.”
Rather than now dictate the status quo policing model, council should have sought extensive public input to determine the community’s policing needs.
By continuing to narrowly focus on a municipal policing service model, despite the majority of the province realizing cost savings through OPP, Amherstburg taxpayers will be denied the opportunity to know the most cost effective police service option.
CKLW AM 800 News reports today that, “Following an audit of the Amherstburg Fire Department, the Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management has come up with 27 recommendations that address everything from level of service and risk assessment to records management and public education.
CAO Miceli references a portion and attaches a page of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police A Process Guidebook for the Review of Policing Options in his Report to Council at tonight’s meeting.
The Guidebook dispels some of the myths about hiring of municipal officers, transfers, etc.
In anticipation of tonight’s council meeting, the CBC reports on Amherstburg’s request to the Minister of Community Safety for an OPP costing.
Did you notice any posturing?
Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said, “For us, OPP has been a tremendous fit.”
Mayor DiCarlo is quoted as saying, “We have talked to other municipalities who have switched and they did also mention there is a disconnection. For example, Amherstburg police are very involved in their community and you do see them in local events,” DiCarlo said. “I understand that when you switch to OPP, that’s something you might not notice. The OPP likely won’t be sending officers to go hang out at your sidewalk sale or Mardi Gras or whatever it is that you’re having, right? It’s just another thing you might notice different.”
In my opinion, Mayor DiCarlo should put his question to the OPP so that he could facilitate factual information to the public through the media, rather than speculation and possible fear-mongering.
In his March 7, 2016 Report To Council, CAO Miceli provides a background of the request, including council’s December 2014 motion, “Administration BE DIRECTED to contact the OPP to obtain police costing for our municipality.” I have been unable to obtain any correspondence from Administration regarding that motion.
Miceli’s Report also contains a recommendation to form a Police Advisory Committee (transition board) to further establish a mutually acceptable framework for review of policing options, consisting of :
The Police Chief
The Chief Administrative Officer
Two Members of Council
Two Members of the Police Services Board
One member of the Police Association.
Miceli’s Report also includes a RISK ANALYSIS that mentions the safe community designation and “There is a very high likelihood that a decision to move toward OPP service delivery will have significant political risk. It is also likely that the morale of police department may be negatively impacted until a decision is finalized.”
The choice of a police service delivery model in any municipality is contentious.
During the costing phase, posturing takes place and Amherstburg is not unique: ratepayers have a vested interest in the municipality’s highest budget item and politicians may mention loss of control.
However, unlike other municipalities, the Amherstburg Police Association and the Amherstburg Police Services Board agreed to hefty buyouts that inhibited the possibility of costing options.
A new tab is being added to the burg watch called Police Costing Facts & Myths.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
All Chiefs of Police, Ontario’s municipalities, and the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers Association have been advised about the new enhanced Accessible Parking Permit (APP) and enforcement-related supports.
Enforcement of accessible parking infractions in Amherstburg in the past, verified by former Police Chief Roger Hollingworth, was minimal; he confirmed that Amherstburg did not have new tickets for bylaw enforcement until January 30, 2009.
In 2009, the Amherstburg Police Service issued one accessible parking infraction and one more by the spring of 2010; Hollingworth advised the town By-Law Officer may also have issued some but he did not have that information or specific information relative to the number that were contested and/or proceeded to trial and/or convictions, if any.
Since the Town of Amherstburg 2015 Public Events Manual contains outdated terminology, for example, “disabled persons parking spaces and Designated Disabled Parking spaces;” it needs to be updated to reflect the fact that the Accessible Parking Permit (APP) was renamed years ago.
And, although the manual mentions barrier free, there is no reference regarding what barrier free standard, if any, is to be implemented.
Not one member of the current council responded to my suggestions to improve and update the town’s Public Events Manual.
Last fall, the Wynne Government announced a controversial decision to hire the Deloitte firm for $415,000. to consult the public on the Government’s problem-ridden idea of a private accessibility certification process being established. The AODA Alliance reports that the Government is not having its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation.
Amherstburg has hired MDB Insight to create a community based strategic plan for just over $36,000. According to MDB Insight’s website, ‘We have grown into Canada’s largest specialist economic development consultancy and continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clients.’
In its January 31, 2016 article, the River Town Times reported that ‘Miceli said the matter has not yet gone to the town’s economic development committee, and told town council it is in the preliminary stages. The next step will be how to engage stakeholders such as the economic development committee and the community as a whole.’
Maybe council should put the unused money budgeted for the strategic plan consultant toward hiring an expert accessible web designer to ensure, finally, that the town of Amherstburg website is accessible.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
The Town of Amherstburg website has been added to the new barriers in the burg page, created in conjunction with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Action Kit “Picture Our Barriers” Action Kit.
Below is a screen shot of the town website taken today:
Despite my officially requesting an accessible website for the Town of Amherstburg since September 2002, changes are still needed today, March 4, 2016. There were promises to change but a real commitment has not materialized in all these years and for some strange reason, some people believe it will require funding.
I believe the well paid IT staff should be competent enough to address all the accessibility issues.
And, I wish someone would explain how a town the size of Amherstburg can afford body cameras for its police officers when larger municipalities can’t.
Considering all the financial requests council considers, money doesn’t always seem to be an issue; is it a question of priorities?
Commentary by Linda Saxon
A new page has been added to the burg watch: barriers in the burg will contain pictures of barriers to persons with disabilities in Amherstburg in conjunction with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Action Kit “Picture Our Barriers” Action Kit.
As the AODA Alliance points out, “the Ontario Government’s effort to make Ontario fully accessible to over 1.8 million people with disabilities has slowed to a crawl, mired in lethargy and bureaucracy. A widely-respected Independent Review that the Ontario Government appointed reported, over a year ago, that Ontario lags behind schedule for full accessibility for people with disabilities and that, after ten years on the books, Ontario’s accessibility law has not made a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities.”
For over two decades, I’ve raised awareness about the barriers in Amherstburg, at times having to resort to the human rights complaints system to ensure my equal access rights.
Yet barriers continue to exclude the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in this community; pictures will clearly depict what those barriers are.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
A new tab has been added at the top of the home page titled, Ask Council, that contains questions posed to members of council, both previously and currently, along with their answers, if there were any.
As mentioned in the burg watch’s questions ignored by members of council, not one member of the current council responded to or answered any of the questions.
Weren’t there promises of accountability, transparency and representing the electorate during the election campaign period?
A quick check of the River Town Times site confirmed campaign promises, in part, of then-candidates for Amherstburg council for 2014 – 2018 set out below.
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo
A need for greater transparency, accountability and fixing the town’s finances are among the top priority for Aldo DiCarlo.
Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale
DiPasquale believes debate is a healthy part of the democratic process and that controversy arises when there is an appearance of ulterior motives or unfairness. “That’s when you get division,” he said. Transparency has to be there and be seen by the community, he added, though noting the town won’t be able to satisfy everyone.
Open, free-flowing communication between council and administration will help address accountability and transparency concerns, she added.
Fryer wants to help put Amherstburg “back on track” and said it will be a black-and-white type of campaign, right from his platform to the colour of his election signs. He said that, if elected, he will provide black-and-white answers to questions that residents pose.
Lavigne expects all candidates to be transparent, fiscally responsible and accountable and added several of his ideas to achieve those goals, including having the budget process include a 5% reduction strategy.
While he is from McGregor, he said that he is interested in serving the entire community and not just be a representative from one section of it. Having lived in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City earlier in his career, he said it has enabled him to look at things on a broader scale. “That’s what Amherstburg leaders need to be mindful of. It’s a big area, said Meloche. “There’s a broad range of residents to consider.”
Residents have to feel comfortable coming before council, she said. “We have to respect our residents. They are very concerned with the financial situation and rightly so. I believe we have to respect their opinions,” she said. “I know I learn a lot from our residents.”
Town wants to set-up a partnership with Amherstburg.