Two new officers added to Vernon RCMP ranks

City of Vernon budget receives a B grade from the chamber of commerce

More police officers will be walking the beat.

Vernon council agreed Wednesday to add two additional RCMP officers to the city’s 2016 budget.

“It mobilizes officers immediately — boots on the street,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

The RCMP has urged additional resources so the downtown enforcement unit can be restored.

“We’re not able to do 50 jobs with 48 officers,” said Supt. Jim McNamara, officer in charge of the Vernon detachment.

Among the duties of the unit are providing a physical presence downtown, gathering information that may help with investigations and developing relationships with people downtown.

Each officer comes with a price tag of about $165,000, including wages, vehicles, equipment and other support.

“It’s dollars well spent if it allows us to provide the same level of service,” said McNamara.

The money for the two new officers will largely come from city revenue related to new growth in the community, as well as reserves.

Funding for the new positions will begin Jan. 1, but there’s no guarantee the officers will be on the job then.

“It may take a little time to place those officers,” said Pearce of recruitment.

The detachment previously was funded for 50 officers but the city reduced that to 48 in 2013 for financial reasons and because the detachment was unable to maintain a full complement of officers.

Discussions around the city’s proposed 2016 budget continued Thursday and end today.

City administration is suggesting a 3.7 per cent tax hike, which would include 1.8 per cent for operations and a statutory 1.9 per cent designated for infrastructure.

Public input has been part of the process, including from the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

“During a time when many communities are facing significant tax hikes, council has been very conservative in its budgeting process and that has kept spending growth along with staff and tax increases to a minimum while addressing the community’s many needs and wants,” said Dan Rogers,  chamber general manager.

The budget has received a B grade from the chamber.

“The chamber believes the city could improve its grade by reviewing it development processes and revising its fee structure to increase the city’s competitiveness.  Further effort to seek out regional partnerships in the delivery of public services could also lead to greater efficiencies and costs savings,” said Rogers.

The chamber has urged the city to initiate a review of development cost charges.