Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Region & Police Working Together

You will recall that in October I wrote about how the Niagara Region and the Niagara Regional Police are now working together for the benefit of all residents, visitors and taxpayers.

I wrote then about how a joint Police / Regional plan was being developed. The Plan was intended to provide the Police with the appropriate and best facilities that they need for effective and efficient policing. The Plan also needed to allow for better managed financing – more respectful of your Regional property tax investment. Finally, the Plan called for planning issues to be solved and potential partnerships to be solidified.

Well, another step in the Plan began last week as Regional Council and the Niagara Regional Police Board met jointly to discuss sites for the proposed new Police Headquarters and new District HQs for St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

Cooperation was evident from the meeting’s outset. Members of the Police Board sat among Regional Councillors. The Police Board Chair, Larry Iggulden, sat next to Regional Chair Peter Partington. Chief Wendy Southall sat next to the Region’s Chief Administrative Officer, Mike Trojan. And Police and Regional staff on the Joint Committee offered the same recommendations to both Council and the Police Board.

But, why did we meet “in camera” (which in Latin means “in private”)?

Generally, the Ontario Municipal Act allows for Councillors to meet in camera for three major items: land, legal, and labour. That means, when we discuss the purchase or sale of a specific property, or labour / union matters, or any specific legal matters, we can hold the discussions in private so that the decisions of Council are not jeopardized.

In this specific case, for instance, we discussed the +25 sites across the Region that have the potential to be purchased for new Police facilities. We met “in camera” so that the owners of those properties would not increase their prices.

Like with a home purchase, if you know that someone really, really wants to buy your property, you might be tempted to increase the price or add conditions to the sale. Discussing the matter confidentially helps to protect the tax-payer and to keep specific property prices in check.

It was a lengthy but positive discussion and staff were directed to research additional information over the next couple of months and report back to Council.

Rest assured that I remain committed to securing the best locations that balance Police operational needs, good Planning principles and taxpayer affordability.