SHELBURNE, N.S. – Whether or not to proceed with exploring the possibility of a unified RCMP policing contract for eastern Shelburne County will be on the table for discussion when councils for the towns of Shelburne and Lockeport and the Municipality of Shelburne, meet in the next few weeks.
That was the consensus from a joint council meeting of the three units on March 14 in Shelburne, which was called at the request of the Shelburne County East RCMP Advisory Board.
“It is the committee’s desire for local councils to consider policing options as a potential joint service between the units,” wrote board chair Sheldon Ringer in the letter requesting the joint council meeting.
As it stands, each unit has its own policing contract for RCMP services. Both Lockeport and the Municipality of Shelburne have a provincial policing agreement, while the Town of Shelburne’s municipal police services contract is with the federal government. The Municipality of Shelburne pays just over $700,000 with 5.5 RCMP officers allocated to their contract, said Warden Penny Smith, which represents about nine per cent of the municipality’s overall budget of $7.6 million. The Town of Lockeport pays just over $155,000 for the equivalent of one officer at 40 hours a week, which is about 10 per cent of the town’s annual budget.
The Town of Shelburne has a municipal policing service agreement that goes back to the 1970s, said town CAO Dylan Heide.
“In that time our complement of members under the agreement has not changed,” he said. Therefore the town, which now has a population of just over 1,700 people, is paying the same costs it did when its population was around 3,000 people. Heide said the town pays for the services of four members, provides an administrative assistant to the detachment and shares in half of the sergeant’s position for an annual cost of $736,000, or about 18 per cent of the town’s annual budget.
For the three eastern Shelburne County units to have a shared policing contract, all three units would have to agree to pursue the option, which was the purpose of the meeting, said Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall.
“To me it makes common sense to have one municipal police unit for eastern Shelburne County,” said Shelburne councillor Harold Locke. “I think it would end up saving money and I don’t think it would end up costing any unit more than what they are paying now. It may save all three, it may save one or two. I would like to see what we can do to find out if there are any savings to having one policing contract. I’m willing to go ahead and investigate.”
Lockeport Mayor George Harding said his town “is very interested in sharing services” with their neighbours.
“We do see ourselves as a town but we also see ourselves as the region of eastern Shelburne County,” he said. “The whole idea of boundaries, especially with policing services, there cannot be any boundaries. They have to be wherever they have to be.”
To get the ball rolling on the possibility of a joint policing contract, it was agreed to take a recommendation back to the next meeting of the respective councils that would direct municipal and town staff to meet with the Department of Justice officials to discuss the potential of a shared RCMP policing contract.
“At least that would give us a starting place,” said Heide. Provided each municipal unit ratifies the recommendation, Heide estimated it would likely be May before a meeting with the Department of Justice would happen.
The town of Shelburne has also been exploring an alternate policing proposal from the Bridgewater police force that would save it money annually.