Policing contract signed, to take effect Jan. 1

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s much publicized and often controversial switch to the Windsor Police Service appeared to reach a conclusion Friday morning.

The official contract signing took place inside of a fourth floor boardroom at Windsor police headquarters with the contract being for 20-years with reviews eligible every five years. Either Windsor or Amherstburg could pull out of the deal with 18 months notice, but representatives from both sides looked pleased with what was happening Friday morning.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said it was a day where they could “serve residents and save money” and one where they could talk about regional co-operation. He said they have been working with Amherstburg for about one year and that the town put out an RFP that “really met the needs of the town.”

Dilkens said savings for Amherstburg amount to about $570,000 per year and “it’s the same service, folks,” stating same officers that will be working in town.

“There was a lot of misinformation put out in the public on what this would look like and how it would work,” said Dilkins.

The Windsor mayor added that he is hopeful other Essex County municipalities will take a look at what was done and possibly consider such a move.

“This is the potential to be the first step towards a regional policing model in Essex County, something that would ultimately benefits all of the residents in Essex County,” Dilkens stated.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said he recalled going door-to-door in 2014 and that policing costs were one of the hot topics at that time.

“We wanted to look at all options,” he said.

Windsor police was the only service that answered the RFP. DiCarlo said he felt some relief that the contract was being signed.

“We believe (Windsor) responded with something that would maintain the services that we enjoy in the Town of Amherstburg, and we also believe it will improve it with what they have to offer,” said DiCarlo. “We will have at least as good a service, and I believe better than we had before, with the City of Windsor, and we will also save money in the process.”

DiCarlo said the town shares many services already and “policing was one of the few that we didn’t.”

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens signed the policing contract Friday morning in Windsor. Both mayors promoted benefits to their respective municipalities.

“Both municipalities will do better because of the partnership we developed,” DiCarlo predicted.

Windsor police chief Al Frederick said “it’s all about public safety” for police and that he was “fully behind it from Day 1,” in reference to contracting with Amherstburg. He said Windsor’s specialty units and resources are now available to Amherstburg, though noted the same officers will remain in Amherstburg unless they wish to move to Windsor.

DiCarlo noted that the officers will still be dispatched out of the existing Amherstburg police station.

Asked whether the contract could be reviewed depending on the makeup of the next Amherstburg council, it didn’t appear that door was open. Some candidates have asked for a review of the situation, but Dilkins noted that by the signing of the contract, “it’s official.

“Once the election is done, it will stop being an election issue,” said Dilkens.

Dilkens said some in Amherstburg may worry about a loss of part of the town’s fabric but insisted the deal will be better for both Amherstburg and Windsor. Frederick said they will win over Amherstburg residents “one call at a time” and that the same 30 officers and the chief will be offered positions. The deputy chief will not be offered a position.

Frederick didn’t comment on civilian members of the Amherstburg Police Service, simply stating “I’ve said from the beginning that all employees will receive a job offer.”

“Every interaction with the Amherstburg community, once Windsor takes over policing, we are going to deliver,” said Frederick.

DiCarlo acknowledged there may be severance or equalization payments that may still have be paid out, but stood by his belief the town will save money in the long run.

“Even if we did have to pay some money in equalization or severance, it’s not exactly going to negate the millions in savings,” he stated. “It’s just going to possibly defer or reduce it a bit. There’s no question there is going to be millions in savings for the Town of Amherstburg during the life of this deal.”

Other Amherstburg politicians at the contract signing were councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer, both of whom also voted in favour of the deal. CAO John Miceli, director of corporate services Cheryl Horrobin and director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin. However, councillors Diane Pouget and Jason Lavigne contacted the River Town Times to state that they and the remaining council members were not notified of the press conference.

Pouget said she learned about the signing when watching media coverage that evening, something Lavigne said as well. Lavigne said the issue of severance has been around since the Feb. 26 vote and wishes proponents of the deal properly notified residents of the possible ramifications at that point.

A report on the Feb. 26 agenda stated the possibility of paying out anywhere from zero to $2.4 million in payouts and that there was also a legal opinion contained with that report.

“Will the town have to borrow that money?” questioned Lavigne, who voted against the switch. “I don’t have that information.”

Lavigne wondered if the vote could have went a different way Feb. 26 if the severance information was better known.

“To me, it’s unfortunate this council isn’t on the same page anymore,” he said.

The OCPC approved the switch from Amherstburg to Windsor in a ruling issued in July.

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