‘Failure to consult’ outrages Central council as OPP mothballs Mindemoya office

CENTRAL MANITOULIN – The mayor and council of the Municipality of Central Manitoulin were universal in expressing their displeasure at not only the closure of the satellite Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) station in Mindemoya (another station in Assiginack is also being shut down), but also outrage at the lack of consultation they say was promised when the location of the new Manitoulin OPP detachment headquarters was announced.

Councillor Steve Shaffer began debate on the issue at the August 27 meeting of council held via video conferencing at 7 pm. He described the closure as “very distressing.”

“There was supposed to be prior consultation for any closure,” said Councillor Shaffer, adding “promise not fulfilled.”

Councillor Shaffer, who is the Central Manitoulin representative on the Manitoulin Community Policing Advisory Committee (CPAC) noted that there were two avenues in place for such a consultation “for issues exactly like this,” he said, citing the CPAC as one. “The most disturbing thing about the closure is that we were led down the garden path,” said Councillor Shaffer. “(The OPP) did not, in my humble opinion, act with integrity. Policing is a concern for any community, especially front line.”

“Well said,” agreed Councillor Derek Stephens, who along with Councillor Al Tribinevicius sponsored the motion expressing council’s displeasure over the closure move. “Everything will have to be done in Little Current,” noted Councillor Stephens, citing the past use of the satellite station by police officers in taking statements from residents and visitors. “I would like to see the office opened back up.”

Citing the OPP position that modern police cruisers are well-equipped to conduct the business that once required a brick and mortar location, Councillor Tribinevicius said he would like to see a formal arrangement whereby a police officer would come to the community on a regularly scheduled basis to engage with residents.

“The whole process was not done according to protocols,” said Councillor Tribinevicius. 

Mayor Richard Stephens noted that at one time the OPP would have citizens ride along in the cruiser, “to get a bird’s eye view” of the policing process. “I don’t know if they still do that,” he said.

“I was disappointed in how we were left in the dark,” said Mayor Stephens. “We get a letter inviting us to the opening of the new facility and, ‘oh by the way, your OPP detachments are being closed,’ the first opportunity to discuss the next changes in what policing was going to be like.” He noted that the process was the antithesis of collaboration.

Councillor Stephens noted that the municipality’s contract for policing runs to around half a million dollars annually. “I want to know what we will be seeing by way of a discount,” he said. 

Councillor Dale Scott noted that the new headquarter’s building cost comes in the neighbourhood of $14 million.

“We will be paying for that for many years,” agreed Mayor Stephens. “What is done is done, but we are not happy about it.”

“I think it is important for it to be clear that Central Manitoulin is a huge contributor to policing on Manitoulin,” said Councillor Shaffer. “That is half a million dollars coming from Central Manitoulin taxpayers.”

The motion “That council strongly opposes the closure of the Mindemoya OPP detachment, which will bring undue hardship to the citizens of the Municipality of Central Manitoulin who need policing services” carried unanimously.