Espanola has closed another chapter in its history. One of the last holdouts in Ontario to give up its municipal policing services, the switch to OPP has been nothing but controversial. Espanola council decided to make the switch in early summer without holding a public referendum.
Since then, there has been a flurry of paperwork to prepare for the transition, which takes place tonight, Thursday, October 11th at 6pm. Council passed several bylaws in September and October to deal with the transition.
Council had to decide whether the police board would remain the same since the number of appointees can be reduced.
But, Council has decided that the Espanola Police Service Board with OPP policing will continue to be made up of five members.
The board will be disbanded under Section 31 of the Police Services Act and reinstated as a Section 10 Board.
In other policing matters, Espanola council has approved two contracts as part of the transition from municipal to Ontario provincial policing.
They approved the hiring of Rainbow District Animal Control for the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019.
Councillor Ron Duplessis says council was kind of caught short, animal control is not included in the transition costings, adding council didn’t have many other alternatives since OPP will not enforce such bylaws.
Councillor Bill Foster says the OPP would do it, but that would increase calls for service and that could be costly.
Foster added council will now have time to look at alternatives for 2020.
Still with council, they also approved the OPP being contacted through 911 call-out for services if public works staff is ever needed during the overnight hours. The job was formerly done by dispatchers, but with the switch to OPP, there is no longer a 24-hour dispatch service. All dispatches will now be handled by 911. Anyone in Espanola who needs policing, must call 911 and be directed to the service they require, be it fire, police or ambulance.
Still with the transition, the former Espanola Police Service building on Centre Street is officially closed for renovations. Anyone needing assistance must go to the Espanola OPP detachment on Highway 17 or call 911. Criminal checks and other paperwork will also be handled out of the Highway 17 detachment for the time being. The office will reopen as an OPP satellite office once renovations are completed.
The approvals come 48 hours before OPP are set to take over policing in Espanola.
And, as of press time, no settlement had been released to the public in regards to the former members of the Espanola Police Service.
Espanola Police Association president Ed Stortz says mediation talks on September 13th between the association and the town stalled. As a result, they went to arbitration on September 24th. The arbitration will be binding, meaning that there will be no appeals once details have been decided by an impartial third party.
Stortz says the EPS has been without a contract since December of 2016. Negotiations include raises retroactive to that date, as well as severance packages for all officers and civilian staff.
The transition to OPP ends 60 years of municipal policing in Espanola.