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by Isabel Mosseler
The newly formed council of West Nipissing had an opportunity to go over financial projections prepared by the administrative staff of the municipality, showing expenses accrued and/or savings lost as a result of delays in transitioning to the OPP. At the December 18th council meeting, Coun. Lise Sénécal had her first run as chair of General Government, and tense discussions around the police costing ended up taking the bulk of the meeting so that council had to vote to extend the meeting an extra hour, with several items held over to January 2019.
The presentation itself did not add much new information to the record, but did provide a clear overview of the timelines, the cost of delays as a result of the judicial review and legal proceedings initiated by the WN Police Services Board, and the savings to be garnered starting in 2023-24. CAO Jay Barbeau said he wanted to “reassure council and the public” and clarified that the role of administrative staff was to “respond to the directives of council.” He also indicated that all the figures, while not audited by a third party, were examined by a local chartered accountant and found to be accurate. “We double checked the facts… A chartered accountant had a look at... the assumptions and process and procedures and he did not find anything that would cause him concern… We have done a pretty good job providing you information over the past 20 years,” Barbeau concluded. The financial update has been loaded onto the municipal website for public review.
Coun. Yvon Duhaime opened the discussion by saying he was not debating the transition, “That’s water under the bridge – it’s done”, but expressed concern about using funds from the municipal reserve to help finance the transition, citing the caprice of the Ford government and the possibility he could change the formula on a whim. Barbeau said the province had worked long and hard on a formula that now works, after years of controversy and bad press over the old formula, and it was unlikely they would want to go back to the drawing board.
In his outline, Barbeau informed that Infrastructure Ontario was picking up 48% of the cost for the new $8 million OPP building to be constructed in Cache Bay. Coun. Denis Sénécal demanded written assurances that the province was going to deliver on that promise and Barbeau said they had received such assurance this past Monday. Coun. Rolly Larabie reminded council that the 48% provincial investment in the structure was not part of the original deal, and the former council had adopted the transition regardless, so any additional funding was just padding the savings. When the mayor asked why the Ford government announced full funding for other OPP buildings and not WN, Barbeau said the building will remain in the sole ownership of the municipality with a guaranteed tenant, but if there was a possibility of 100% funding in lieu of a lease, they could look at it.
After several questions were posed, Coun. Dan Roveda wanted to know where the discussion was going, reminding that the decision to transition was already made and not meant to be debated again. Barbeau stressed “The decision was made by the previous council, the decision was lawful, a procedure was followed… We’re not going to reopen it unless directed to re-open it.”
Mayor Savage and Coun. Lise Sénécal responded to Roveda by saying that residents expected answers and the old council had not provided them, and they had every right to bring up questions. Barbeau agreed, saying the proper time to bring up more questions to OPP would be when the contract comes up. “There’s going to be a contract put forward to you by the OPP, that’s the time when the representatives from the OPP will be here to answer any questions to that contract. (…) This council’s part of the process is to receive the contract and approve the contract.” The contract should come before council in February 2019, he advised.