Squamish signs onto new RCMP contract, reluctantly 

Mayor looking at alternatives

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The District of Squamish has finally signed onto the new RCMP contract for local policing.

It was the last community to agree to the new contract in B.C.

"We will continue to work with council, local residents, the provincial government and other municipalities to address our concerns with the policing contract," said Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham, who along with his councillors reluctantly agreed to sign the contract Friday June 29.

"The safety and security of the people of Squamish is of paramount importance. We do not want to allow this process to place undue risk on our citizens.

"We have started looking at alternatives."

The District, along with all municipalities that use the RCMP as their local police force, had until June 30, 2012 to sign the agreement.

It was advised by the province that not signing the agreement would have resulted in a 10 per cent penalty on policing costs in Squamish. This would have represented a significant financial burden on residents in the community of almost $450,000.

While the contract included a number of changes to give provinces and municipalities more control over how the force operates its detachments, the DOS was specifically concerned with the costs of the new RCMP E Division headquarters in Surrey ($966 million to design, build, finance and maintain the facility for a term ending 25 years after construction), the cost for point-of-entry security at division or regional headquarters and the cost for legal advisory services.

"The District was disappointed to have had so little input into a contract that commits our residents for 20 years," said a press release.

Squamish is already set to pay more for policing as its population grows. In 2011 it paid 70 per cent of its policing costs, $2.1 million, but now it must pay 90 per cent - that's about $1 million in extra costs

For Whistler, policing costs have always been higher than the population would require due to the number of temporary workers and visitors to the resort. The population can vary as much as 30,000 from weekend to weekend, requiring additional staff resources and the hiring of additional officers from Lower Mainland detachments during busy times.

As a result, Whistler pays the base amount for a community between 5,000 and 15,000 plus additional money for overtime - specifically hiring additional officers from outside the community - and use of RCMP integrated teams. The total budget for RCMP is $3,121,942, which doesn't include overtime hours paid using funds from Additional Hotel Room Tax. Whistler has a force of 23 RCMP members, plus support staff, vehicles and the detachment office.

The province is expected to see its annual policing costs grow $5.7 million in 2012-2013 over the current total of $310 million. Communities with populations between 5,000 and $10,000 will jointly pay an increase of $320,000 a year based on their size, while communities over 15,000 will pay a share of a $2.35 million increase.

The basic cost-sharing formula will be the same for the province and municipalities, with some increases shared between communities. The province and federal government pay 70-30 for rural and unincorporated areas of the province with no charge to residents. Small municipalities with populations of 5,000 to 15,000 will continue to pay 70 per cent of contract costs with the federal government paying the other 30 per cent. Municipalities over 15,000 will pay 90 per cent, with the federal government paying the remainder.

Some of the highlights of the new contract include:

¥ Provincial, federal and municipal governments will now jointly oversee how RCMP services are delivered and costs are managed, with a five-year review to ensure that the new system is working.

¥ The Province has established a B.C. Local Government RCMP Contract Management Committee, which will be operated by the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) to review costs and service decisions.

The agreement also includes a framework for communities to transition to their own or a shared force, and more transparency at all levels. Costs cannot be increased without provincial support.

With files from John French and Andrew Mitchell.


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