Springhill begins policing review

Darrell Cole
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Committee to study town police versus other options

Springhill has begun a review of policing services to consider possible options for the town. The town's mayor, Max Snow, says protective services will soon make up 44 per cent of the town's budget.

SPRINGHILL – Springhill Mayor Max Snow has appointed a steering committee to explore alternate sources of policing for the town.

This will include talking to the current police department to determine if there are ways to provide the citizens with a level of service that is affordable to taxpayers.

The move comes a month after an interest arbitration award between the town, its police commission and the Local 203 of the Atlantic Police Association that represents the town’s unionized police officers.

“Currently, the costs of protective services consume approximately 40 per cent of the total annual budget of Springhill,” the mayor said in a news release on Wednesday. “This award will increase that percentage to approximately 44 per cent of the budget. The Town of Springhill cannot afford increases like that and the citizens cannot stand another tax increase. Raising taxes is not an option.”

Despite the town’s argument that it’s ability to pay is limited, the union was awarded increases of 18.5 per cent over four years for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

In addition, the town’s dispatchers were awarded three per cent annually for four years.

The town was offering 1.5 per cent for each of the years.

With the increase, a constable with two years service will see his pay increase to $70,253, a corporal goes to $71,658, a sergeant goes to $73,063 and the deputy chief rises to $75,873.

Dispatchers pay increases to $33,618.

The mayor said with benefits added in, the cost to the town will be $399,209 over the life of the contract that expires in April 2014.

Snow said the town has limited options to deal with the salary increases. One option is to run a deficit – something not permitted by the Municipal Government Act, while another option is to increase taxes – something the mayor said is impractical considering Springhill residents already pay the third highest property taxes in Nova Scotia.

Canso, he said, has the highest residential taxes and recently voted to surrender its status as a town while Bridgetown, with the second, recently had major financial difficulties that resulted in Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to get involved.

Springhill, he added, is already dealing with a $380,000 budget shortfall from 2009-10 that was partially a result of a police pension deficiency. Because of this the town was forced to increase taxes to $2.25 per $100 taxable assessment, while it is also eliminating its deficit over a four-year period that was approved by the province.

The third option, he said, is to cut services. For council, the mayor said, this poses the challenge of deciding which services to cut to pay for the higher wages.

“Street paving, sidewalks and so on will have to be placed on the back burner for now. The town has been working diligently to reduce its long-term debt to free up funds for these much-needed services but any decrease in our debt payments will be offset by these increases in payroll costs,” the mayor said.

The mayor said citizens will be notified before any significant changes are made and that security will be in place during any transition period.

Union president Const. Doug Williams said his membership is hoping the town will opt to maintain its municipal police department and pointed out he will be urging officers to avoid jumping to conclusions.

“No one wants to lose their jobs. Some of us have been here for close to 30 years and we don’t want to have to move on,” Williams said. “I’ve told the members it’s just a review that is not only looking at alternate services but also maintaining the police force. The main thing is we want our officers to stay calm and continuing doing our work.”

This is not the first time Springhill has looked at changing how it’s policed. In the late 1990s, under then mayor Mary Dee MacPherson, the town considered switching to the RCMP. However, soon after the 2000 election, when the late Bill Mont returned to the mayor’s office, the town voted 5-1 to keep the municipal police department.


Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Atlantic Police Association, RCMP

Geographic location: Springhill, Nova Scotia, Bridgetown

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Recent comments

  • Alex
    March 21, 2013 - 14:54

    It’s sad to hear the negativity . You’re talking about a group of men and women sworn to protect your Town. These folks are among the lowest paid police officers in the Maritimes. They do the same work and have the same responsibilities of officers employed in larger better paid departments. Why should they be expected to be paid less? The ratio of calls for service to numbers of police per population equal out. If anything a front line officer in Springhill answers more calls for service then his counterpart in Halifax. In Halifax those officers have many other opportunities and supports then our Springhill Officers but our guys get the job done. All this talk about bringing in the R.C.M.P. Remember they are Federal employee’s and are used to being paid the best and having all the federal perks. You think they will be cheaper than your municipal employees who are use to being second rate? The problem occurred about 18 years ago when the Municipalities and the Province switched responsibility for paying for police and social services. Up to that point the Province paid for policing and the towns for social service costs. The municipalities wanted to switch the responsibility as they thought paying for policing would be cheaper? Perhaps we need to switch back. I also believe the figure quoted for the percentage of the Towns budget being paid out is for protective services which include fire. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Right now you can have an officer at your door in under 3 minutes. What is that worth to you when someone enters your home?

  • Mr C
    March 18, 2013 - 10:49

    Salaries have more than tripled since 1986, the salary was $23,500 then. We had less than 1900 citizens paying taxes, the same as now. Crime rate hasn't jumped very much. In 1988 the RCMP would have policed this town for less than $800,000.00 because that have detachments in Oxford, Parrsboro and Amherst. The top 4 or 5 police officers never went to police training schools, like the RCMP (6 months) P.E.I. training academy (13 weeks) and yet expect the same pay. We now are paying the dispatchers the same rate as a police officer was in 1986. It was discussed approximately 10 years ago that we could come under one dispatcher service out of Amherst. They got rid of the best police chief, Bob Foley, because he wasn't politically correct. The police officers have out priced themselves, bring in the RCMP

    • Shill life
      March 21, 2013 - 08:41

      We need to downsize or get rid of our police force there is no need of having as many cops as we have and 4 vehicles in the town of springhill, its an unneeded expense and the shape our roads are in we shouldnt be paying to fix 4 cars when we cant even keep our own in shape

  • Concerned Citizen
    March 15, 2013 - 13:58

    As a concerned taxpayer couldnt beleive how much salary SPD make bring in the RCMP couple of these poliuce officers have not been in line of duty for quite sometime & still collecting a pay check .As far as the public works they buy houses in the county because of our high taxes but still do not mind collecting their paychecks each week .The streets are terrible just like going on a roller coaster without having to go to the amusement park just my input that something has to be done has their are alot of income families that are just keeping their heads above water & raising taxes to keep police Dept is ridiculous.

    March 14, 2013 - 20:19

    maybe they should contract out the work the town shed does ? Before any talks of getting rid of the Town Police we should be reviewing to see how much can be save . like the bull"""" contract thety have about snow removal on the weekends! Shake your head people....the real drain is the town shed ! remember a few years ago they did the asphalt sidewalks on JCT road . 7 weeks building "forms" for an asphalt side walk......and paving company....3 days tops....

    • Reason
      March 15, 2013 - 09:09

      You honestly believe 44% of tax dollars going to policing is sustainable? Doesn't really matter how long it takes to put in a sidewalk when you can't afford it.

    • noodle
      March 18, 2013 - 08:42

      Trying to shift blame to the town shed doesn't erase the fact the police department eats up 44% of the town's budget. In the face of such a high tax rate it's outrageous and greedy to expect the rest of the community to continue footing the bill for salaries that average 200-300% what most Springhill taxpayers are trying to live on. For heaven's sake, people are having to leave their homes and families because they can no longer afford to live in the town so why don't you give YOUR head a shake!!

  • LOL
    March 14, 2013 - 17:46

    seriously gotta laugh at how only certain things are put out to the public, the only thing cheaper than the money spent to fix this town is the way it always comes back to the police everytime there is a blame where the town money goes...

    • noodle
      March 18, 2013 - 08:38

      Of course it always comes back to the police department because it's eating up 44% of the town's budget which is way too much for any one service no matter how important. That kind of expense is unsustainable. Either the department is going to have to make dramatic cutbacks or there will be no police department. It's just that simple and I don't think the community will rally behind the department this time around, not with those kind of numbers.

  • another outsider
    March 14, 2013 - 15:53

    seriously, people...do you really think the Springhill PD are worth what theyre getting paid?! not by a long shot. They dont do squat, except drive around, maybe do a checkstop on the weekends but as so many people in Springhill will attest to, the cops there couldnt catch a cold....as for some of the cops being there for 30 years thats too long. It breeds familiarity and favoritism. Bring the RCMP in, at least they rotate their members every few years to prevent that.

  • sherri dawn barrett
    March 14, 2013 - 13:17

    i am from springhill & it's really time for a huge change in the town to be finally policed by the RCMP & they will be able to clean the town up of the crime & drugs & be able to work with the teens on getting them off of the streets full time & get them programe's at the arena full time.also get the police dogs to use on the streets of springhill to stiff out the drugs being carryed by people & also to find any one that may be lost too.also the RCMP plane can be used for many uses in the town of springhill to fly around to find really bad things going on in the town too.

  • L Walsh
    March 14, 2013 - 11:10

    I beleive it should be RCMP and the roads and streets should be fixed instead. The damaged to vehicles caused by the streets is very extreme . When people visit Springhill they always ask if we paid our taxes because the roads are in such poor condition..

  • Outsider
    March 14, 2013 - 09:10

    I have family and friends who live in Springhill and I have never seen a town with such entitlement... but also with such negative attitudes. The entire town seems to spend its days saying how bad it is, how hard it is, oh woe is me attitude. There is bad energy in the town and maybe if the 20 and 30 somethings started stepping up to make a change and help make a difference - change the negative attitude and things will begin to perk up. I'm always blown away by how down the people seem. This is just another example. They will all complain but nobody does anything to fix it. Maybe reducing the police force is for the best - it is a small town. Maybe buying that million $ fire truck or those brand new cop cars could have been better timed. Get your priorities straight and the town people? Get it together and start being the change!

  • T.Eddy Baer
    March 13, 2013 - 22:55

    The wages for Springhill Police are way out of line. A Constable on Calgary(Alberta) Police Dept. doesn't make that kind of money!!!! I would like to know why a town/village has a Police Dept. that thinks they are worth those wages. Ok, there's an Institution in the area but how many times are they called to do anything involving it. Having visited Springhill, seeing the PD with all the latest and greatest vehicles I can help but wonder how many other PD in this country would love to have/need these vehicles. Many have more rugged areas to cover with older vehicles and work for less money. It's a shame the Springhill is in beautiful area and could be a great place to live, work and play if it weren't for people and/or Government Departments (local and provincial) keeping it down and poor. Good luck Mayor Snow. Hope you can do some/anything to help this town.

  • Another Thought
    March 13, 2013 - 20:59

    The writing is on the wall...RCMP it should be.

  • Sandra butler
    March 13, 2013 - 20:37

    We sure don't need to pay any more taxes!! Maybe it time for changes.This town is falling apart things need to be fixed.