“We’re kind of torn. We’re not sure if we should be excited or really sad or really upset. There’s a real mixed emotion,” said chamber executive member John Voorhorst, as he presented the executive’s concerns to delegates from Town of Coaldale council including Mayor Kim Craig and Coun. Jack Van Rijn.
During his presentation, Voorhorst said, notice has apparently been given to Lethbridge Regional Police Service (LRPS) that the contract with LRPS will be cancelled. “Over the summer, the executive of the chamber has worked really, really hard to try to determine how we are going to be best served with this type of a change in the contract position and quite frankly, the executive has had a number of outstanding concerns throughout this process,” added Voorhorst. Voorhorst stated there were a few questions the executive believes have been left outstanding including what will be the cost or what will be the cost savings and what service levels can be expected under a new policing model?
Another chamber member, Leonard Fast said he’s been involved with the chamber for many years. “The thing that I find most disturbing throughout this is the lack of communication, at times lack of respect that has been directed towards the chamber. The town had a committee, I think struck last year, to deal with the policing issues. I would have thought it would be an excellent body for which the chamber should have representation but that wasn’t to be the case. At the end of July of this year, we asked for a meeting with the mayor and Coun. Van Rijn to deal with some of these issues,” said Fast. The meeting between executive members and town councillors was held over the summer. “There was no feedback or response to the concerns that we addressed to council at the time. We’ve had a number of meetings, asking for public consultation on this whole police issue. But there has been no public consultation.”
Coun. Van Rijn said council knew at the meeting at the end of July the change in police service was going to happen but council was asked to keep it under wraps until the negotiations were finalized. “As part of that, something we’ve been negotiating with them for close to a year now, is the fact that they’re going to be moving the entire detachment from the City of Lethbridge to the Town of Coaldale,” said Van Rijn.
“It’s going to be a huge impact for Coaldale in a sense that we’re going to have between a $10 to $14 million dollar operation coming to Coaldale with the RCMP paying for the cost of the building. They’re going to have upwards of 45 uniformed members working out of the detachment with approximately 15 support staff. There’s going to be a place there for sheriffs to work out of. We’re going to have two support staff from the Town of Coaldale there as well and they are presently looking for land and there’s several prime locations in Coaldale that the RCMP are looking into,” added Van Rijn.
Van Rijn also noted the cost of the current policing model is costing the town just under $2.2 million dollars. “With the policing model that we’re looking at with the RCMP, it’ll be in the neighborhood of $1.6 million dollars. If you want to do the math, that’s a huge cost-saving just on the money part of it alone.”
“As far as the level of service goes, we’re going to have a seven-member detachment,” said Van Rijn, adding the detachment will be manned 24/7 by a uniformed member, with a 2017/2018 date for a new building to be in place. The RCMP will also be bringing enhanced services including a full-time K9 Division, a forensics unit and the Coaldale detachment will include a regional training facility.
Some community members in Coaldale have also brought up the concern of if the future of a regional training facility could be similar to the outcome in Fort Macleod a few years ago, when the province cancelled funding for a police training college in the town.
Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig said council tried to make it clear to the chamber executive negotiations with the RCMP were of a sensitive nature. “The RCMP did not want a premature release or announcement,” said Craig, adding the town has a great opportunity to move ahead with the transition. Voorhorst added the executive believes major decisions such as a change in police service by elected town council should be discussed with the general public. “We’re not asking the elective representatives to treat the chamber of commerce in any special way, not at all, that’s not the executive’s position. The executive said, we need to have discussion with the public. There has been no discussion with the public, as an executive let’s try to find a way to make sure that the public is aware,” said Voorhorst. Community members have asked the question — perhaps the chamber could arrange a public consultation?