THUNDER BAY -- The city’s mayor wants to know how the cost of the municipal police force compares to its provincial counterpart.
Keith Hobbs put the idea of cost comparing the services of the OPP with the Thunder Bay Police Service forward at Tuesday night’s budget discussion. He referenced comments from the OPP commissioner Chris Lewis, who had previously said he had the cheapest game in town.
The commissioner was speaking about small towns moving away from maintaining their own local police force and instead adopting the OPP’s services. The Toronto Sun reported last December that Lewis was not encouraging it, but if municipalities want to cost compare he’d be open to the idea.
Hobbs believes the city could find savings of up to $5 million on the police budget.
“It’s something that I’m interested in,” Hobbs said following the meeting.
“Thunder Bay police do a great job and that’s my old stomping ground. With police budgets and emergency services budgets going through the roof across the province and the country, we have to start looking at the way we deliver services.
“Just for my own information, I would like to see what the OPP costing would come in at. Not to say that we would have the OPP policing Thunder Bay, but we have to look at all avenues.”
The emergency services budget, which includes police, fire and EMS, all showed an increase from last year.
The police came in at $35.2 million, which is a 3.4 per cent boost over last year.
During the meeting, police chief J.P. Levesque said he didn’t have any hard figures to present, but found it difficult to believe doing that would save the city $5 million.
“This city requires excellent police officers and equipment,” Levesque told council. “Ninety-five per cent of our budget is wages. (The OPP’s) wages are higher than ours are. If Commissioner Lewis made that comment, I haven’t heard it actually; if he did, I’m not sure if he’s referring to the ability to cut services to get down to that level or not. I don’t know.”
Levesque said it would have to be a conversation with the OPP and would be considered a political decision and not one of the chief of police.
Westfort Coun. Joe Virdiramo, who is also the chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, added that the board would have to vote on the issue.
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