policing

Swinton vying to become Amherstburg’s new mayor

 

By Ron Giofu

 

There will be a mayor’s race in Amherstburg as Glenn Swinton is seeking the town’s top political job.

Swinton filed his nomination papers last Thursday and will be challenging incumbent Aldo DiCarlo for the job. He said he was going to challenge DiCarlo if it looked like DiCarlo was going to be acclaimed and he followed through on that.

“There was no way I was going to let him be acclaimed,” he said. “We have to have a second option.”

The decision to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service and contract the service to Windsor was the key issue which drove Swinton to run.

“It’s the whole policing issue that drove it right over the top,” he said.

Swinton said his first objective if elected mayor would be to review the town’s contract with the Windsor Police Service “and look for an out.” He said he doesn’t believe that the residents of Amherstburg were heard during the process.

“I don’t feel they were listened to,” said Swinton.

Swinton opposed the police switch and said he hasn’t received many of the answers he was seeking.

“There’s so many things in the policing contract where I’d ask a question and it would go unanswered,” he said.

Glenn Swinton filed last week and is running for mayor.

Stating he doesn’t have “a big, long list of things I don’t like,” Swinton said there are other issues as well that he would like to keep his eye on if elected. He said that he wants to make sure the town sticks to the agreement regarding the Belle Vue property and ensure that no taxpayer money is used on its restoration.

The plans for the Duffy’s property are also something Swinton would like to be a part of. He said he looked at the proposal for the site but he said that plan doesn’t fit on the size of the property. He also noted the development of a nearby condominium unit and wondered if building an amphitheatre is the best use of the land.

While believing the current proposal is not realistic, Swinton would like to see the property developed.

“We have it now, so let’s do something with it,” said Swinton.

As for the town’s finances, Swinton said the town is “just looking better” as much of the debt is still locked in. That said, he added he wants the town to keep looking better. The deferral of development charges is a program that is working and he believes that it is a good idea.

“We’re building all over,” he said. “The town is booming. I want to keep that momentum.”

Swinton said he has heard from people who believe the town is overstaffed and there are unnecessary positions that have been filled.

“They need to be looked at,” he said.

The mayor should have the answers and not have to look to administration as much, he believed, and that the mayor should be able to clarify items for council members.

If there are still unanswered questions at the time of a vote, the vote should be deferred.

“I want to move the role of mayor back to the head of council,” said Swinton.

The mayor should be more active and immersed in what is going on, he added.

Swinton said he believes he can handle the role of being on Essex County council.

“It’s going to be a learning curve, absolutely,” he said of being on county council.

Swinton added he is not looking to have a “smear campaign,” adding that is not the objective. He added there are a lot of great festivals in Amherstburg and the town does have a lot going for it.

“We’ve got good momentum going,” he said. “I want to keep it going.”

Swinton added: “We’re working on building a plan. Hopefully we can get some support and make it happen. My number one goal is to do what is best for the town and the people in it.”

 

Council keeping policing meeting at town hall

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Despite talk that the policing decision would be made at another, larger venue, town council has ultimately decided to keep the meeting at town hall.

The town will vote on whether to keep the existing Amherstburg Police Service or contract out policing to the Windsor Police Service Monday night but the decision will be made in the council chambers. While the idea had been floated to move the meeting to a larger venue, town hall was decided by council members to be the place to hold the meeting.

Councillor Leo Meloche raised the issue at the Feb. 12 council meeting as to whether the town was considering an alternate location. CAO John Miceli said administration was not looking for another location and that it would be up to town council to make that decision.

Meloche made a motion to have the meeting moved but Councillor Rick Fryer stated that while he understood the concern, he believed town hall would still be the best location.

“This is where decisions are made,” Fryer said of the council chambers.

Fryer added that he believed the meeting would be “much easier” to control if it were held at town hall rather than moving the meeting elsewhere.

“At the Libro Centre, it would be very hard to (control the meeting),” stated Fryer.

Meloche withdrew his motion and the town decided to keep the Feb. 26 meeting at town hall. The meeting is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m.

LaSalle not to give Amherstburg a bid on police services

 

By Ron Giofu

 

And then there were two.

Should Amherstburg town council vote to switch policing services away from the existing Amherstburg Police Service, the choices will be between the Windsor Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). That is because LaSalle has opted not to submit a bid to police Amherstburg.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya noted that there was a large discrepancy between Windsor and the rest of the field on dispatching and that showed “we don’t have the economy of scale” to match up.

Windsor’s dispatching bid came in at $653,000 over a five-year period with LaSalle police’s bid being over $1.48 million over that time frame. Owen Sound police and Strathroy-Caradoc police also submitted bids with those bids being just under $1.48 million and $1.54 million respectively.

“It’s difficult for smaller municipalities to match that,” said Antaya.

When it comes to bidding for the overall service, Antaya indicated that LaSalle believes they couldn’t offer up the cost savings Amherstburg is looking for.

“We recognize the economic scales involved here. Amherstburg is looking at saving costs and we are not sure we can give them the savings they are looking for,” Antaya said.

The LaSalle mayor added his community is happy with the policing they receive and there were some concerns about “watering down” the LaSalle Police Service should resources have been necessary to include Amherstburg. With it now being possible that municipalities are non-contiguous can get to police one another, it now means LaSalle doesn’t have to be part of the equation, Antaya added.

Safety is the most important thing to LaSalle residents, Antaya added.

LaSalle council will discuss possibly giving Amherstburg a police costing Jan. 26.

LaSalle council will discuss possibly giving Amherstburg a police costing Jan. 26.

The news that LaSalle wasn’t going to submit a bid wasn’t the best news Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo has heard, but he was understanding of why it happened.

“Overall, my biggest reaction is disappointment more than anything else,” said DiCarlo. “With no disrespect to other mayors or other municipalities, they have to do what is best for the interests of their municipalities.”

DiCarlo indicated he is a fan of municipal policing, but believed a regional policing model would be cost-effective for those municipalities involved.

“As was stated when we first started this process, this council is the first one to do its due diligence in getting the numbers,” said DiCarlo.

An advisory committee has been set up and DiCarlo believes they have done a good job articulating what Amherstburg wants in a police force. He said Amherstburg has gotten used to a level of service and doesn’t want to lose it, adding that bidders will have to provide a similar method of policing to what exists currently.

The town issued an RFP and the deadline is mid-October. While DiCarlo anticipates there will be some savings, “if Windsor or the OPP can’t do it cheaper, that’s not a bad thing.” He said that is affirmation that the Amherstburg Police Service is providing a good service for a good price.

Saving are in the resources, he added, noting police salaries are roughly the same across the board.

DiCarlo emphasized that retaining the existing Amherstburg Police Service is an option council will have as well. Even though he anticipates a savings from bids from Windsor police and the OPP, DiCarlo said the question then would be whether those savings are enough to not keep the Amherstburg Police Service.

“That is ultimately up to council.”

Could Amherstburg get policing out of LaSalle?

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Another option could soon be possible if Amherstburg decides to make a change on how it is policed.

LaSalle council will soon debate whether to offer a police costing to Amherstburg as LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya approached his council with the idea last week. Antaya believes the county municipalities partner well together and that could extend to a policing partnership between LaSalle and Amherstburg.

“It’s something we’ve discussed off and on since the Windsor option surfaced,” said Antaya.

LaSalle council will discuss possibly giving Amherstburg a police costing Jan. 26.

LaSalle council will discuss possibly giving Amherstburg a police costing Jan. 26.

Antaya said he spoke with Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and DiCarlo was open to another policing option. The LaSalle mayor said it had to go through his police services board first and the matter would also come before his council at their next meeting Jan. 26.

“In my opinion, we’re simply offering something to our neighbours,” said Antaya.

LaSalle’s main goal would not be to make a lot of money off of Amherstburg, but if both towns can shave money off of their police budgets, all the better.

“We’re not interested in making a million dollars,” said Antaya. “We’re interested in watering down our costs. If we can reduce the costs Amherstburg currently experiences, that’s great too.”

Antaya views the potential costing as an opportunity to provide services to Amherstburg, achieve some savings and obtain a mutually beneficial partnership.

LaSalle residents are very happy with their police service, Antaya noted, and are not interested in a partnership with Windsor.

“They are almost rallying behind their police service,” he said.

If LaSalle were to partner with anyone on policing, Amherstburg might be a better fit, he added.

A regional service would be “terrific,” he noted, but added that talks of regional policing have dated back for years. Antaya, a retired LaSalle CAO, recalled those discussions taking place when he was the CAO in Colchester South, a post he held before assuming the similar one in LaSalle.

“I suspect we’re all just whistling in the wind. I suspect the OPP could blow everyone out of the water in terms of a costing,” he added.

Antaya added LaSalle has always had a good relationship with Amherstburg and they want to see Amherstburg do well.

“Anything we can do for them, we’re there for them,” he said.

DiCarlo pointed out the original motion from Amherstburg council came over a year ago and included seeing if other area municipalities were interested in joining forces. He said Essex was the only one to respond originally, but now is happy to have a second county municipality possibly be interested.

“Now it’s nice to have LaSalle step up too,” said DiCarlo.

Amherstburg’s original motion dealt with trying to lower costs, he added, with options to be considered to involve price and level of service.

“It really comes down to what we are looking for as a town,” said DiCarlo.

In addition to Essex, the OPP and possibly LaSalle, Windsor is another option. One issue that could arise is that Windsor and Amherstburg are not geographically connected, so there could be grey areas in the Police Act. Those issues may not arise in a potential LaSalle option due to the towns being joined.

DiCarlo said Antaya approached him at a meeting just before Christmas where it was mentioned that there was an interest in LaSalle possible putting forth a costing.

“Honestly, it was a short discussion,” said DiCarlo. “He gave me the heads up they were likely interested now.”

DiCarlo said regional policing is an option because it helps spread out costs while giving each municipality some control. He said costs per officer are similar but the savings would result in lessened administrative and infrastructure costs.

“The more people you get into the mix, the more cost effective it comes,” said DiCarlo.

Some municipalities still prefer OPP, he acknowledged, but a regional approach could occur if other municipalities start the process.

“I still think it’s something the region should look at,” said DiCarlo. “If a core of us start the process, maybe more of them will consider it a viable option.”

DiCarlo has stated on multiple occasions that town council will make its decision when it gets all of the costing information before them.

Essex to join in policing discussions with Amherstburg

 

 

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg has another possible partner if the town wishes to pursue a regional police force.

The town of Essex has agreed to have talks with Amherstburg about joining forces for policing with the former’s council agreeing to have discussions during its March 16 meeting. Amherstburg agreed to get an OPP costing and also investigate the possibility of a regional force late last year with Windsor to provide a costing for a possible regional service.

“Having the conversation isn’t going to hurt,” said Essex councillor Sherry Bondy.

Bondy noted that Essex just entered into a new three-year agreement with the Ontario Provincial Police but indicated there is an opt-out provision after one year. She said it is not about the service the OPP provides, but rather “it’s about the cost to our taxpayers.”

Essex CAO Russ Phillips indicated there have been discussions amongst chief administrative officers in the area about shared services, including police. He added that what was being asked of Essex council was a motion authorizing the support of discussions with Amherstburg about policing.

“There is nothing formal right now other than exploring different options,” he said.

Essex councillor Randy Voakes said it was “good governance” to do cost comparisons and that “we just can’t accept the status quo” on their current policing costs.

“The reality is with the increases we are seeing, we are not going to be able to afford to keep (the OPP) at the end of this contract and that’s the truth,” said Voakes.

Voakes believed there should be dialogue about regional policing and “there’s no harm” in agreeing to have discussions with Amherstburg.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott said he did not oppose having discussions with Amherstburg, but recalled similar concerns about cost when Essex had its own municipal police force.

“The reason we went to the OPP in the first place was to save $1 million per year,” said McDermott. “We couldn’t afford our local police force a half-dozen years ago.”

“We do have a responsibility to our taxpayers to look at every single savings we can,” added Councillor Larry Snively. “We have to look at this.”