Municipal councils want input on new Island OPP detachment

MANITOULIN—While Billings township council is requesting the new Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment office to be constructed on Manitoulin be located in its township, Gore Bay council would like to at least have Island municipal input provided on where the new detachment office will be located.

“I know there has been money allocated for a new detachment, are we as a municipality or municipalities on the Island going to be able to provide any input on where we would like to see this office located?” asked Councillor Dan Osborne during a Gore Bay council meeting last week. “It’s moving ahead but we haven’t been asked for any input.”

Gore Bay Clerk Annette Clarke noted in talking to Manitoulin OPP Detachment Commander Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb that no decision has been made. (This was confirmed by the Recorder from both Staff Sergeant Webb and a representative of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. A decision is expected in late 2017).

“No one has asked us if we want input on the proposal. For instance, if they build a new detachment elsewhere on the Island what happens to the detachment in Gore Bay?” asked Mayor Ron Lane.

“I’d like to see an opportunity being provided for our input. People in our community deserve to be able to provide input,” said Councillor Osborne, noting, “our opinion might be different than others.”

Councillor Jack Clark said that earlier this year there was discussion about amalgamating the Manitoulin and Espanola area OPP detachments. “The MMA (Manitoulin Municipal Association) six months ago passed a motion strongly agreeing that the Manitoulin OPP detachment headquarters and administration needs to stay on the Island. But we haven’t heard anything since.”

It was suggested by Mayor Lane, and agreed on by council, to invite Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb, Manitoulin detachment commander, to a council meeting to be able to answer some of the council’s questions. 

“We should invite him (Staff Sergeant Webb) sooner than later,” added Councillor Osborne.

At a recent Billings council meeting the issue of a new detachment on the Island was discussed. “I just thought if the province is developing a new OPP detachment office on Manitoulin Island the chances are that it will not be located at this end of the Island. Would it not be nice to at least have a West End storefront office in our community? Should we request having a storefront office located here?” asked  Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack.

Councillor Brian Parker noted, “Kagawong is one of the most central locations on the Island and would be a good place to have the OPP new detachment building set up.”

“Should we be issuing a letter to the OPP encouraging them to locate the new office here, indicating we would love to have them here?” asked Councillor Alkenbrack.

A motion was put forward by Councillors Alkenbrack and Tom Imrie that council direct the township clerk to write to the OPP commissioner, vice commissioner and commander of the North East command and Manitoulin OPP staff sergeant Kevin Webb requesting that consideration be given to Kagawong for any new OPP detachment to be located on Manitoulin Island, and, if this is not feasible, a storefront office in Kagawong be considered.

Councillor Parker countered that, “if we give them a door to open, they will use it. We would be remiss if we put the last line on the resolution that if it is not feasible for the new detachment to be located in Kagawong then a storefront office be considered. I would decline to vote on this motion as it is.”

“At least (this motion) would show we are doing something and want an OPP presence here,” said Councillor Alkenbrack.

“As soon as you give someone an open door that they can go through, they will,” stated Councillor Parker.

“If we don’t at least ask for both, then we will be left out altogether,” said Councillor Barb Erskine.

All of council voted in favour of the resolution and writing the letter to the OPP except for Councillor Parker, who voted in opposition.

As reported previously, the Ministry of Safety and Correctional Services has identified the Manitoulin Island Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as one of nine detachments across Ontario that are in line for a new detachment to be constructed.