West Grey Police Services came under fire at Saturday's all-candidates meeting in Durham.West Grey resident David Sugarman questioned the necessity of a 12-day trip by chief Rene Berger and deputy-chief Dan Rioux to a conference in Europe this summer put on by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Named for Nazi hunter Simon Wiesthenal, the centre is an international Jewish human rights organization that aims to foster tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action. This year it sponsored trips to former concentration camps in eastern Europe, said West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles, chair of the police services board, who defended the decision to send the top cops to Europe, noting their trip was paid for by the Wiesenthal Centre.
"Having the chief and the deputy go to Europe for 12 days when the Toronto police sent one representative, Ottawa police sent one representative, was an abuse of the good nature of the Wiesenthal Centre," said Sugarman who noted that the centre has a van that it would send from its Toronto office complete with audio visual information."They could have done a week of programming where all 12,000 people of West Grey could benefit instead of two people jetting off to Europe."
Sugarman wanted to know why the police services board doesn't have an up-to-date business plan. The last one expired at the end of last year. Eccles said that the board was short a provincially appointed member until early this summer. As a well a public survey of residents' comments carried out earlier this year is being tabulated and the results will be used to create the new business plan.
Eccles would like to see the business plan mirror the four-year term of council rather than the current three year mandate. Sugarman also wanted to know why council has not called for a request for proposal from the OPP to see how a contract with the provincial force would compare to the current cost for the municipal service.
The 2014 budget for West Grey police was $2.7 million.
Eccles said later that asking for a RFP is not done lightly and council is quite satisfied with the current service provided by its own officers.
Coun. Bev Cutting, who is also a member of the police services board, noted that police services across the province are keeping an eye on collective bargaining talks being carried out by some of Ontario's larger police services such as the OPP and Toronto Police Service. An agreement would set the precedent for negotiations by other services and also provide a benchmark for arbitration hearings.
Saturday meeting heard from 11 candidates for council, including incumbents Bev Cutting, Carol Lawrence, John Eccles, Don Marshall and Rob Thompson. Other hopefuls include retired educator Doug Hutchinson, businessman Tom Hutchinson, Neustadt resident Carol Kraft, volunteer firefighter Dennis Laver, business owner Brian Wolfe and nurse Susan Zammut.
Some of the other questions raised during the meeting included how to kickstart a stalled local economy, and concerns about the planning that went into buying the former Rona Hardware building for use as a police station only to find out later it didn't meet the requirements.
Builder Don Tremble was less concerned about attracting new businesses than about retaining existing ones."We have a lot of businesses already. What are we doing to keep them?" he asked.
Beatrice Black wanted to know why council was wasting money in a fight with NextEra, a battle she believes the municipality can't win.
Candidates for deputy-mayor include incumbent John Bell. Jenny Parsons who, is challenging Bell, is recovering from surgery and couldn't attend Saturday's meeting. Her campaign manager spoke her behalf. Former West Grey CAO Christine Robinson is challenging incumbent Mayor Kevin Eccles.
"It was interesting to meet the new candidates because I don't know anything about them. I know about the existing ones . . . but the new ones I've just seen their campaign signs and little blurbs in the paper but I wanted to see what they actually stood for," said Kim Poppleton."It brought to light a few things that I hadn't thought of before such as stands they are taking for the revitalization of West Grey. . . It was nice to hear some new ideas being thrown out."
Advance polls are being held in the West Grey municipal office Friday and Oct. 15 from 1 to 8 p.m. and Oct. 18 from 1 to 5 p.m.