West Hants council voted overwhelmingly in favour of finding about $34,000 within their current budget to keep the RCMP complement at the local detachment at 17.
The decision came about after East Hants opted to relocate its officers that were operating out of the West Hants detachment to Milford.
In August 2012, Windsor District RCMP Staff Sgt. Dan Austin, “H” Division Planning and Client Services Staff Sgt. Jim Sponagle, and a representative from the Department of Justice approached West Hants council to apprise them of a situation.
At that time, it was noted that there were six full-time members funded by East Hants that would be leaving the detachment sometime between September and November. Due to the funding agreements in place, East Hants' decision to relocate the officers also meant there would be .35 of an officer left behind.
West Hants was given the option of paying for the remaining .65 of an officer, or eliminating the position altogether.
At the Nov. 13 council meeting, Coun. Randy Matheson made the motion to fund the officer's position until May 31, 2013. It was estimated it would cost the municipality about $34,000.
“It would bring us up to a whole number and that is the reason for this motion — so that we don't lose that 35 per cent work that's being done for us,” said Matheson.
Prior to East Hants calling it splits, the Windsor District RCMP was comprised of 23 members that were paid for by West Hants, East Hants, Windsor and Hantsport.
Warden Richard Dauphinee explained the situation to the three new council members and the issues council had.
“I don't think there was a councillor around the table that was against funding that partial officer. The problem was we had set our budget,” said Dauphinee, noting the Department of Justice indicated they would look into whether they could help the municipality fund the officer for the rest of their budget year. The municipality didn’t hear back.
“We just delayed it because we thought that they might come through with the money,” said Dauphinee.
The warden asked CAO Cheryl Chislett if there was some wiggle room in the budget so they could save the position if council so desired.
“It seems like an awful lot of money per officer but it includes everything: gun, car, insurance — everything." - Councillor Randy Matheson
Chislett said she didn't spend the entire amount budgeted for the recently held election, and said there should be enough to cover the cost.
Coun. Shirley Pineo was the only one to speak against the motion.
“I'm going to vote against this. I don't like the way that it's been presented to us and I think that this is something that we need to address when we do our budget in the spring,” said Pineo.
“I'm not prepared to add any more to our RCMP (complement) at this time until we see a business plan and see just exactly what their plan is and how we're going to go forward because we may have to budget for a couple of new officers if we feel we need it to do the job that's necessary for West Hants,” she said.
The CAO told council the RCMP were going to bring forward a business plan at council’s December meeting.
It was stressed that the six RCMP officers that left the detachment took the work with them. The local detachment is no longer responsible for covering Mount Uniacke and other communities in East Hants unless they are called in during emergency situations.
“I will support the motion even though I had reservations,” said Deputy Warden Gary Cochrane.
“I don't think our crime has gone up and we've lost a lot of territory as far as land goes. When these officers left, they took that land from Tennecape all the way down to Walton. Like I say, they took the work with them.”
Both the warden and Matheson said the price the municipality pays per officer, about $134,600, includes much more than the salary.
“It seems like an awful lot of money per officer but it includes everything: gun, car, insurance — everything,” said Matheson.
Council agreed to fund the RMCP position until May 31, 2013. The motion was passed with Dauphinee, Cochrane, Matheson and councillors Reed Allen, Tom Brown, Mike Campbell, Jennifer Daniels and Victor Swinamer voting in favour. Pineo opposed the motion.
With this approval, there will be 17 full time officers on staff responsible for patrolling Windsor, West Hants and Hantsport.