Treasurer Michael Beal says the federal government suddenly wants to settle Tantramar’s new policing contract within the next few days.
“As of Friday, an e-mail came out that indicated they would need a decision by November 10th,” Beal told council at a budget meeting yesterday.
He said it took until about noon, only three hours before yesterday’s meeting, for the RCMP to grant him permission to use a slide presentation outlining basic information about the level of service Tantramar would receive if council decides to approve a municipal policing service agreement (MPSA) like the one in the former town of Sackville.
And although Beal was given permission to show the RCMP slides to council, he is not free to circulate them to the media or public.
Much bigger population & area
The slides show that the Sackville MPSA covered a population of 6,099 with 10 full-time officers and that the RCMP is recommending three additional officers for Tantramar’s population of 9,019, which is 50% higher.
(Before municipal amalgamation, Dorchester and the former local service districts were covered under a provincial policing service agreement (PPSA) that the province signed with the federal government.)
“The RCMP also looked at geography,” Beal told council as he showed another slide.
“So for Tantramar, we went from 73.91 square kilometres to 703.84 square kilometres of serviceable area,” he said.
Councillor Allison Butcher expressed concern over those numbers.
“My question is [with a] 50% increase in our population [and] almost 10 times the land mass, yet they think only three more officers will be enough. So my concern is, how?” she asked.
Beal answered by pointing to an RCMP slide showing the recommendation for three additional officers was based on the increase in population, geographic size and workload associated with the university.
“A 50% increase in population doesn’t necessarily mean an increase of 50% in call volume,” he said, adding that the RCMP is also recommending that additional officers who police other areas including Memramcook, Strait Shores and the TransCanada highway be retained within the Sackville detachment.
These officers operate under a PPSA, federal-provincial contract.
Beal was hesitant to cite RCMP staffing numbers, but did say there were always between 10 and 14 PPSA officers working out of the Sackville detachment in addition to the 10 who policed the former town.
“So this would go to 13 municipal members plus still between 10 and 14 provincial members working out of this building.”
He acknowledged, however, that Sackville’s full complement of 10 was down to only between seven and eight recently partly because of problems the RCMP faces in recruiting new members.
In August, Sgt. Eric Hanson also told council, four of his officers in the Sackville detachment were on long-term sick leave.
Beal said he would invite RCMP representatives to meet with council at its next regular meeting on Tuesday.
In the meantime, he’s recommending that Tantramar sign a municipal policing service agreement with the federal government because it would give the town greater control over policing than a federal-provincial contract would.
If council does approve an MPSA with three additional officers, Beal said it would take some time to get them because under the contract, the RCMP would have up to a year to bring the full complement of officers up to 13 and may need additional time to recruit them.
“So, it is a process,” he said. “But the RCMP has committed that they will not leave any municipality short-handed while this process happens.”
To watch the council discussion on YouTube, complete with RCMP slides, click here and scroll forward to the 11 minute mark.