Dryden Mayor Greg Wilson was on an island inside the chambers of City Hall last night, being the lone member of council to vote to accept the OPP’s costing proposal. Ultimately, the city rejected the OPP’s proposal 6-1.

“You have to vote according to your conscious. It’s not all emotions, it’s also about the facts.” said Wilson, after the vote. “I don’t think that we’ve seen the last of this. It’s always going to be on our radar, if it’s something that’s going to deliver that kind of savings. It’s just bad timing right now.”

Wilson and councillor Norm Bush stressed that the city may have to revisit the issue as early as 2023, as they project that the city would save $1 million per year by switching policing models after absorbing initial equipment, severance and additional costs.

“To take on this investment at this time, it would significantly alter the city’s financial recovery plan. We’ve stuck to the plan for 6 long years, and I am reluctant to stray off course at this time. We’re 2 years too early to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Bush.

If the proposal was accepted, the city would be on the hook for roughly $4.5 million in additional, upfront costs, on top of the OPP’s 2019 $4.7 base cost. The funds would have had to be funded by essentially wiping out the city’s reserves.

“We have to run the community in a way to offset the financial situation that we’re in. Almost 5 years ago, we were $27 million in debt. Now, we’re at $14 million. That’s not done easily,” said councillor John Carlucci. “That’s huge, and I do not want to give up our reserves for OPP transition costs.”

“I’m not a gambler, and I don’t want to gamble with this. I think we have excellent control and governance on our police service. Our police service responds to our community and the needs of our community in so many different ways,” said councillor Shayne MacKinnon.

The current set of councillors are not able to revisit the issue in their term. Councillor Shayne MacKinnon had pushed for a moratorium on any OPP costing talks for 15 years, but due to municipal codes, the city is not able to dictate future council decisions.

“I’m sure that it will come to light again in the future, if we need to revisit this situation again. But there’s also the possibility that we won’t need to. We’ve gone through this once, and there’s always the possibility, but my hope is that we don’t have to go through it all again anytime soon,” said councillor Michelle Price.

At a special council meeting on May 2nd, the city’s OPP Costing Committee -featuring members of council, the police services board and the community – recommended against the OPP’s proposal. Members were concerned about a loss of governance control and assurance by switching to the OPP’s model, the loss of a Dryden-dedicated community service officer and impacts to employees and the community as a whole.

“For two years, we’ve struggled as a Police Costing Committee to come to terms with who would be the better force. Both forces are wonderful. We weren’t choosing between the two forces, we were choosing based on money. It’s a huge consideration on what we can and can’t afford,” said councillor Marty MacKinnon.

The Dryden Police Service's budget is estimated to be roughly $4 million. The OPP listed their 2019 costs as:

- Base cost - $4,754,600 
- Uniform, equipment, vehicles - $663,067 
- Start-up costs - $305,000
- Severance fees – anywhere between $915,00 - $4,256,480 – estimated at $2,070,400 
- Estimated total 2019 costs - $7,793,067

Councillors had until May 27 to make the final decision. The decision to pursue an OPP Costing Proposal was made in June of 2017, following a unanimous decision by city council. A Police Costing Committee – consisting of councillors, city staff, a member of the public, a member of the police services board and the Chief of Police, Doug Palson, has been meeting monthly since September of 2017.

For more information:
City recommends against OPP
City moving ‘full steam ahead’ towards OPP decision