City councillors in Dryden still have until November to make their decision into policing services in the community, after once again receiving more information from a consulting firm.

Winnipeg-based MNP LLP was contracted by the City of Dryden in 2020 to study and compare the pros and cons of the Dryden Police Service and the Dryden OPP, at a cost of $35,000. They were the same firm that completed Dryden’s first OPP Costing study in late 2019.

During a Special Committee of the Whole meeting on June 7, MNP LLP’s Chad Lins presented the firm’s report, noting this study focused more on how other communities handled the transition between a municipal police force to the OPP, or vice versa.

In Dryden’s original OPP Costing process, which was shot down 6-1 after roughly two years of discussions and meetings on the issue and would later be revisited only 17 months later, councillors were hoping to see roughly $1 million savings by year five of the OPP.

Councillor MacKinnon pointed out that now, Lins’ report says Dryden could see savings by the eighth year of the contract, or about 2030, if all best-case scenarios are reached in terms of call volumes, annual increases and expected cost-savings.

Overall, it looks like the OPP will cost Dryden over $8.5 million after transition costs, but the city could see savings 8 years and 15 years after the transition, while the Dryden Police Service’s costs are listed at just over $4 million, but are expected to continue to increase at a higher rate.

Using a flat calls for service projection over 15 years, the OPP’s cost in Dryden is estimated to be $72 million, and the DPS’ would be $83 million. Using a 4 per cent annual growth in calls for service projection, the OPP was listed at $90 million with the DPS at $99 million.

“There’s a huge gap in numbers,” said councillor Shayne MacKinnon, noting MNP’s 2019 study had quite different financial projections to the newest study. He said 2021’s OPP estimate was initially projected to be $4.8 million, but it ended up being over $5.2 million.

Lins’ report says after discussions with other communities, many said they transitioned to the OPP due to the perceived cost savings and liability burden – as the OPP would remain liable for misconduct or incidents, opposed to the city itself with a municipal police force.

“Folks were concerned about response times and decreased levels of service. In general, the jurisdictions we spoke to said they were quite satisfied with response times and level of service to date. They’ve been quite pleased.”

However, communities said some calls for service were dropped as the OPP didn’t consider them a high enough priority, there can be a loss of familiarity with officers due to the OPP’s regional policing model, and Lins noted the transition and amalgamation process to the OPP isn’t an easy one.

“Folks were mindful to let us know that moving to a municipal service to the OPP is quite a time and resource consuming process. There’s a lot of effort that goes into it and don’t underestimate it.”

Neither service tracks their officers’ response times, so that information could not be compared.

Statistics from Statistics Canada show that Dryden had the second highest rate of criminal incidents per 100,000 population compared to benchmark municipalities like those in the region and those similar in size to Dryden, and had the highest average annual growth rate in criminal incidents between 2015 and 2019.

Dryden also was shown to have the second highest average policing cost at $488 per capita, well-above Canada’s average of $410. That represents a cost of about $1,040 per property in Dryden, over tripling Ontario’s average of $311. Kenora’s costs are listed at $720 per household.

However, councillor Shayne MacKinnon noted Sioux Lookout receives a rebate from the province to keep their policing costs down, and Kenora has about three times as many properties as Dryden, keeping their costs low as well. Otherwise, both communities’ costs would be much higher than Dryden’s.

For the Dryden Police Service, their just over $4 million of costs have increased roughly 3 per cent each year, or about $92,500. That includes 2 per cent of general increases, capital costs and various other wage increases and benefits through a recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Ultimately, the OPP’s proposal is listed at about $6 million but costs are estimated to be well over that amount with additional costs considered. The proposal is broken down as:

$3,929,131 for uniform members’ salary and benefits,
$506,476 for civilian staff members’ salary and benefits,
$456,326 for support staff members’ salary and benefits,
$468,805 in yearly operating expenses,
$710,775 in one-time transitional costs,
- $55,325 in year-one adjustments and savings,
= $6,016,188

However, that doesn’t include $300,000 to $400,000 in upgrades to the Dryden OPP detachment, additional equipment upgrade costs, the costs of record storage, severance costs, pensions, the cost of maintaining a police board or the disposal of outdated assets.

As it stands, the Dryden Police Service’s detachment on King Street is still not suitable as it does not pass the OPP’s risk assessment as it’s located too close to the CP Rail tracks which carry hazardous materials, and additional space at the Dryden Courthouse is being considered.

While there is space in the Dryden OPP detachment, staff say the building off of Highway 17 does not have sufficient space to accommodate everyone and needs extensive interior and exterior upgrades, as well as water supply repairs.

The OPP’s costs could also rise by an additional $500,000 or so, as the Dryden Police Service’s Chief of Police Doug Palson and Inspector Ann Tkachyk are both subject to the OPP’s rank evaluation process.

Their current ranks don’t exist in the OPP’s structure, meaning they’d be reassigned to another rank if offered a position by the OPP. If so, the OPP say those officers could bring their listed costs from $5.9 million to about $6.4 million.

Lin’s report to councillors estimates that if 75 per cent of DPS officers sign on with the OPP, but Palson, Tkachyk and civilian staff don’t, severance costs could still be over $2 million, on top of the $6 million base costs.

The City of Dryden’s decision must be made by November 17, 2021, or the OPP’s proposal will be scrapped. You can find a video of the Special Committee of the Whole meeting HERE.

But before that, the Dryden Police Service and their board members will deliver their report to councillors on June 14 during a virtual Committee of the Whole meeting.

City councillors will also be hosting a virtual public meeting on the issue on June 24, and an online community survey has been created that will last until July 5. You can find the survey HERE, or in paper-form at City Hall.

Questions and comments on Dryden’s OPP Costing decision can also be sent by email to generalinquiries@dryden.ca, or by mail to Dryden City Hall at 30 Van Horne Avenue, P8N 2A7, Attn: OPP Costing Review. Comments will be accepted through July 7.