City of Williams Lake sees increases to policing costs in contract

Williams Lake city council members are concerned that they will have a lack of control over future policing costs.

While city council has approved the 2012 to 2032 municipal police unit agreement contract, Mayor Kerry Cook said council is concerned about its lack of control in knowing what the future costs are going to be.

The net cost increase in salaries will be $6,240 in 2012, $6,336 in 2013, and $19,296 in 2014; or per member $206 in 2012, $264 in 2013 and $804 in 2014.

In 2012-2013, the city will cover property costs of $318,003, up from the original forecast of $234,432.

The province will contribute $67,000 toward the increased accommodation costs in 2012.

Coun. Danica Hughes expressed shock.

“I support the salary raise, but I have so many questions around the huge increases in the square footage accommodation costs,” Hughes said. “In Williams Lake the average square-foot rate for commercial right now is $8 whereas we’re looking at paying $200 per square foot. I think that’s way too expensive.”

Echoing Hughes, Coun. Surinderpal Rathor described it as a “lifetime opportunity” after 20-plus years for the provincial government to have input on the future with policing costs.

“For me this is too rich for municipalities, especially municipalities like ours. It is the single largest bill to pay, but look at the hike. How can we justify that increase on a year-to-year basis? It’s insane,” Rathor said. “I know I have no say. The deal is done. We do need the services, but I just don’t like it.”

Mayor Kerry Cook pointed out there’s a lot more to the cost of accommodation above the square footage.

“For instance there are different things that are added such as maintenance, capital costs, jails, a jail keeper, and everything. But I also think it emphasizes urgency in moving forward to see whether we should own the building,” Cook said, adding Williams Lake is one of 11 municipalities left in the province paying accommodation costs for a building the city doesn’t own.

Coun. Geoff Bourdon cited the costs as an example of the political sensitivity of downloading from provincial governments.

“I’m on side with what my colleagues are saying, but it’s a fight we need to take to the province. The greatest issue is the way the funding is disbursed,” Bourdon said.