Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula would like to see municipalities and rural areas paying proportional costs of police services in the Comox Valley.
He discussed the issue with Attorney General Suzanne Anton last week at the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention in Vancouver.
“Our argument has been that policing is no different than hospital or school board, we all pay proportionally toward that,” Jangula said. “So why are we not paying proportionally toward the policing issue, which would help with more resources and help small communities that are losing their detachments, and also have issues with lengths of time for service for calls because the detachment is so far away?”
He says each Courtenay resident is paying $182 for policing, whereas Comox residents pay $97 and rural residents even less.
“People have argued that we have more calls and issues in the hub city, which is normal, but it’s one of those things that affect all of us. Everyone gets the same level of service.”
To his understanding, Comox Mayor Paul Ives says Anton might consider a province-wide review of urban-rural policing costs.
Communities with populations exceeding 15,000 pay 90 per cent of police costs, those from 5,000-15,000 (including Comox) pay 70 per cent; and rural areas under 5,000 (including Cumberland) pay about 50 per cent.
In the Valley detachment, Courtenay pays more than $5 million for 34 officers. Comox pays about $1.5 million for 11 officers.
“We feel that’s a fair balance and reflective of what our community needs are,” Ives said. “Our taxpayers are content with the service being provided.”
At one time, Comox council planned to add an officer every few years. However, criminal activity has diminished in the town.
“We haven’t seen the need to add more officers,” Ives said. “We’re a quiet bedroom community. We do understand we’re part of the Comox Valley and the overall detachment, but I can’t see any real business case for increasing the number of officers, especially when crime rates are declining. And the only control we have over policing costs is determining how many officers we want to pay for, because their wages are set by Ottawa. We do have a master agreement with the Province for the next 20 years.
“I would hate to see this become a Comox versus Courtenay issue,” he added. “Really, we have a safe community, our needs are being met. Courtenay has to decide how many officers they want to pay for.”
Online voting resolution passed
Ives was among the UBCM delegates who supported a resolution — which passed by a slim margin — urging the province to enable online voting for the 2018 local elections. Advocates say the move, if approved, could boost voter turnout but others claim there’s no guarantee online voters will be able to cast ballots privately.
Big $ being spent on hosing issues
During a discussion about the proposed Braidwood project with Housing Minister Rich Coleman, Jangula discovered government has spent more than $3 million on local housing issues including emergency shelter and housing for the homeless ($786,000), traditional supportive and assisted living ($1 million-plus), independent social housing ($467,000) and rental assistance in the private market ($1 million-plus).
Jangula and other Courtenay delegates also met with Transportation Minister Todd Stone to discuss the north connector and the two-lane Dove Creek bridge. Jangula requested bike lanes be included in the structure.
Roundabout for Headquarters?
The Province is considering adding a roundabout at Vanier Drive and Headquarters Road that would connect with the bridge. Work is scheduled to begin in the winter. The bridge is expected to be ready for service by the fall of 2017.
In the next year or so, Jangula said the department of highways is also considering four-laning the bypass from the 17th Street Bridge to Ryan Road.
Jangula was accompanied by Couns. Manno Theos, Doug Hillian, Erik Eriksson and Bob Wells at the 112th convention. Comox Couns. Hugh MacKinnon and Barbara Price also made the trip, as did Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird, and Couns. Jesse Ketler and Sean Sullivan. Ketler represented the Village at a presentation on social procurement and economic development, delivered by Valley resident Sandra Hamilton.