STELLA – Frontenac Islands Township’s policing bill, which charges the same rate for a windmill as a house, is another example of how unfair the new Ontario Provincial Police billing model is to rural townships, says Opposition MPP Randy Hillier.
Hillier, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, called the windmill cost “a real kick in the teeth to rural municipalities.”
On Wednesday, Frontenac Islands Mayor Denis Doyle said the township was charged more than $25,000 for policing for the 86 windmill properties on Wolfe Island.
“Most of our rural townships, they have been talking about the shock of this new funding model the Liberal government has brought in,” Hillier said Thursday. “It puts all rural townships at a real disadvantage.”
The new OPP billing model, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, and is to be phased in over five years, includes two components. Base policing costs, such as crime prevention, proactive policing, officer training and administrative duties, account for 60 per cent of a municipality’s bill. Reactive calls for service account for the remaining 40 per cent.
Spiralling OPP costs, fuelled by increasing wages and benefits, have meant many rural municipalities are struggling to hold tax increases in check.
Hillier said policing costs are based on residential assessment, so in rural townships that have little or no commercial or industrial tax base, policing costs are shouldered by the residential taxpayers.
“I’m sure the police get called far more often to the Walmart than to the windmill, but we are going to base our policing costs on the windmill not the Walmart,” he said.
While there are only five windmills within his riding, a 26-turbine development on Amherst Island in Loyalist Township has received conditional approval from the Ontario government.
Loyalist Township Mayor Bill Lowry said Thursday morning that, after talking to the local OPP detachment commander, he is not concerned about increased costs associated with wind turbines proposed for Amherst Island, adding that there would be few calls for service related to the windmills.
Two proposed wind energy projects in Addington Highlands Township could see as many as 100 turbines built in that municipality.
“What is new to everybody is when you actually dig into the minutiae of these policing contracts,” Hillier said. “This foolishness exposes the unjustifiable and often contradictory elements of this funding model.”
On Wednesday, an OPP spokesperson said the rate for policing windmill properties was under review.
“You could say that about any government policy at any time. I have not seen or heard any specific undertakings to review this,” Hillier said. “As a general statement, all policies are under some level of review, either by the public or administrators or politicians.”
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