By Greg Bennett
People say there’s never a cop around when you need one and that adage may become particularly true in Shelburne this year as the local RCMP detachment deals with serious staff shortages.
The Town of Shelburne is expressing concerns after learning that half of the detachment’s members are on medical and maternity leaves, a situation that could remain that way for many months.
While being assured that the town’s emergency needs will be met, some councillors questioned how much patrolling or community policing initiatives the detachment would be able to accomplish while so understaffed.
Some councillors also asked why the town would pay full price for a service that is half-staffed.
“The bottom line is no matter how you cut it we are still paying 50 percent more than we should,” said Councillor Roy O’Donnell.
The eight-member Shelburne RCMP detachment serves all of eastern Shelburne County. The Municipality of Shelburne and Town of Lockeport’s policing needs are handled under a provincial contract that does not include a promised level of service.
But Shelburne councillors are quick to point out that the town’s contract is independent of the provincial agreement and is specific on a required level of service.
Town CAO Dylan Heide advised pressing the issue with the brass at RCMP headquarters in Halifax.
“It’s important to tell them that we are aware of the situation and that we expect either people to be put on the ground here or we should have a reduction in what we are paying.”
Mayor Karen Mattatall said she was less concerned about paying less than making sure the town was adequately policed.
I’m hugely supportive of police …of having more not less,” she said. “If we are down half or whatever the number is they are not able to do the job they are being asked to do …to me it’s important that we have the service.”
While councillors noted that even though understaffed, that emergency calls would still be answered, most were adamant that the RCMP should move quickly to beef up the local detachment.
“We as a town are expected to honour our commitment to pay to staff the RCMP. In return they have a commitment to provide the staff.”