SPRINGHILL – Almost a year after announcing it would review the cost of keeping its police department over other alternatives, the Town of Springhill says a decision is now looming but the emotional rollercoaster for the present officers isn’t over yet.
Doug Williams, Springhill police officer and Local 203 of the Atlantic Police Association rep, says the past 10 months have been anything but easy on the membership.
“The morale is definitely low. They’re continually working and taking calls and doing what they do but they come to the office wondering if they’re going to be here with a job, moving out of Springhill or staying in Springhill, but most of all they’re still coming to work as planned and not getting out of the way because of this review,” Williams said.
Mayor Snow announced earlier this week two proposals for policing in the community were received as part of the review, one from the department and one from R.C.M.P. At Tuesday’s council meeting it was reported a possible third proposal may have been received and a decision is expected sooner than later.
Regardless of the number of proposal put forward, Williams feels there won’t be many surprises when it comes to the overall cost of policing a community like Springhill.
“I don’t think they’ll find any surprises with cost, but it all depends on what the town is looking for,” Williams said. “If they reduce service instead of 24-hour policing, or depending on what they want to provide, that would change.”
The review was announced in March 2013, after the town and the unionized police officers ratified the policing contract. That contract included a retroactive salary increase of 18.5 per cent, going back from 2010 to 2013. At that time, Springhill’s elected officials highlighted protective services cost taxpayers approximately 40 per cent of the town’s operating budget and initiated the review process.
It’s a statement that’s offended Williams because, frankly, protective services is more than just policing.
“The town has a budget of more than $6 million last year and the police budget was $1.6 million. It’s definitely around 23-24 per cent of the town’s budget,” Williams said. “What people didn’t understand and obviously still don’t understand is that part that was put in by the mayor about protective services. Protective services in the town includes the police department, the fire department and the building services. It’s not just the police.”
Williams is also disappointed council has been mum on the revenues the department brings in during the fiscal year. Money collected from tickets and criminal record checks, Williams said, goes into the town’s general revenues when they could go to the department to help pay for equipment. The town also receives $200,000 for its street crime unit members, but that money isn’t reflected in the policing budget, too, Williams said.