Community leaders in Dryden will be working with the OPP and the province to help curb drug and crime activity in the region – as the city hopes to lower its annual policing costs.
Dryden Mayor Jack Harrison met with Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner earlier this week to discuss a proposal which would lower Dryden’s policing costs by 35 per cent each year – saving the city about $1.8 million annually.
While Mayor Harrison explains he’s not at liberty to discuss any financial impacts of their discussion at this point, he says Kerzner was ‘very impressed’ with the information provided by staff, and Harrison believes the province and Premier Doug Ford are ‘100 per cent’ on board with supporting the city.
Of note, Harrison explains the province will be working with leadership of the Dryden OPP to create a new Crime Unit division – which will work to address increasing trends of violent crimes and drug use in the Dryden area.
The Mayor adds the city will be working alongside the province over the next year to tackle these issues, and he’s optimistic they’ll be able to find new solutions to the problems. As well as drug use and violent crimes, Harrison stressed the need for bail and judicial reforms, to help prevent repeat offenders.
This all comes as Dryden’s in its first year of the OPP’s new contract and billing model, and policing costs have been an ongoing concern for Council members.
Dryden families paid an average of $1,200 for policing costs per household in 2022. That’s expected to increase to nearly $1,400 per household in 2023 – over $1,000 above Ontario’s average price of $300.
Transitioning to the OPP in 2022 cost Dryden about $8.5 million, after uniform, equipment, vehicle and detachment renovation costs. But the city is hoping to see savings from the transition by 2030 and 2037.
The communities of Kenora, Pickle Lake and Sioux Lookout joined a coalition last year to lobby the province on lowering their policing costs – as the three pay some of the highest fees across the province.
Kenora pays $832, Sioux Lookout pays $934 and Pickle Lake pays upwards of $950 – all shy of Dryden’s costs. At this point, the City of Dryden has not joined the regional coalition.
Harrison explains he and Chief Administrative Officer Roger Nesbitt first met with the Solicitor General at the ROMA conference late last month in Toronto. The two also met with the Ministry of Long-Term Care to address the city’s need for long-term care beds.