The City of Vernon has set Sept. 4 as the new deadline it will stop providing centralized RCMP support services to Coldstream, Armstrong and Spallumcheen.
The city first announced in May it would not be providing the support services but agreed to an extension of an original July 1 deadline after talks with the municipalities and RCMP.
In a letter to all, B.C. RCMP Chief Supt. Brad Haugli provided two options: continuing centralized support services or decentralizing the services.
Both options, Haugli explained, would not compromise policing operations.
“From my perspective, this has been a good learning exercise for everyone involved,” wrote Haugli.
Centralizing support services would cost the City of Armstrong $64,677, the Township of Spallumcheen $50,720 and the District of Coldstream $33,665. Vernon has said it subsidizes the three communities by more than $300,000 per year.
Support services include court liaison, crime analyst, detention facility, general investigation support, watch clerks and rescue managers.
Armstrong and Spallumcheen have no issues with decentralizing support services, while Coldstream is still contemplating Vernon’s deadline.
“The CAOs of Armstrong, Vernon, Coldstream and the RCMP have been working on this an awful lot the last few months, trying to figure out what’s fair, what’s right,” said Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper. “It’s all evolved through a whole bunch of scenarios over the years. There’s a combination of a whole bunch of stuff. It’s really nobody’s fault.
“Everybody’s trying to solve the problem right now. I understand (Vernon’s Akbal) Mayor Mund’s desire to get this resolved. I think everyone wants it resolved. Will it happen Sept. 4? I don’t know, but it will be soon.”
Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick didn’t agree with Vernon’s assessment that the city was subsidizing his district for support services.
“One of the biggest challenges is because of our population,” said Garlick. “Coldstream pays 70 per cent policing costs, and 30 per cent is paid by province. In Vernon, it’s 90-10. What’s happened in support services is Coldstream has been dragged along in paying the same support services because we’re housed together with the City of Vernon as a 90-10 community. What we’re trying to understand is does that need to happen and we’re working with the RCMP to try and figure that out.
Haugli said newly arrived Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher will create a sustained governance model that ensures regular and frequent communication and accountability to all funding stakeholders.
Baher and Haugli will lead a further broader assessment of Coldstream resources that needs to take place, including looking at statistics, workloads, service delivery and local government feedback.
“We have access as a 70-30 community to other support services within the RCMP provided through Kelowna but we have never been offered those support services in the past, and we’re seeing how does that affect us moving forward, getting an understanding,” said Garlick.
“In the big picture, if an increase in the amount of support services needs to be paid, Coldstream has said we’ll agree to that but the information is not so simple as just here’s a dollar value right now because there’s a lot of information that people are learning about through our discussions with the RCMP that were previously not available to us. We’re just trying to get an understanding of it and moving ahead.”