The Owen Sound Police Service headquarters on 2nd Avenue West in Owen Sound. Denis Langlois/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Post Media Network
Denis Langlois / Denis Langlois/The Sun Times/Post Media Network
Hanover has decided to play ball with Owen Sound by engaging in talks about potential policing partnerships, but West Grey has opted to sit this one out.Both Owen Sound and Hanover officials say they’re optimistic their two municipal police departments will be able to come up with ways to cut costs through sharing services.“There’s lots that we can look at that will benefit both Owen Sound and Hanover police services,” Hanover Mayor Sue Paterson said in an interview.“I can see increased ability for specialization in certain areas for crime investigations and drug investigations. Also, the ability for officers to receive specialized training, which in a small service like Hanover that’s not always there. And we can share resources.”Boddy said both communities have “very high policing costs” and the best way to reduce the expense is to share services.“The other advantage is not just costs, but criminal activity and drug activity don’t pay attention to borders. If we can share – perhaps we’d have a service here in Owen Sound that we’re really good at that we can provide to Hanover from time to time to help them provide better policing and them to us – there’s great advantages,” he said.Boddy and city manager Wayne Ritchie met with Paterson and town CAO/clerk Brian Tocheri April 23 at Hanover town hall to discuss whether the two municipalities would be interested in working together to find ways to share services within their police departments.The mayors decided, based on that meeting, to send letters to their respective police boards to ask that their police chiefs meet to talk about ways to “find efficiencies by working together,” Ritchie said.Owen Sound Police Chief Craig Ambrose said he’s already spoken by phone with Hanover Police Chief Chris Knoll and the pair will soon set a date to meet to “further the discussions we’ve already started.”Ambrose there’s a lot of opportunities for the two police departments to work together.“There may be some hurdles we have to overcome, but I don’t think anything that’s insurmountable,” he said.Owen Sound council voted Feb. 11 to direct city officials to correspond with the councils and police boards in West Grey and Hanover as well as the Owen Sound Police Service board “and such other municipalities that may wish to be partners” to discuss and negotiate towards creating a regional police force “to find efficiencies and benefit for all partners.”The letters were sent out in February and Boddy provided an update to council during Monday’s meeting.Along with the Hanover update, Boddy told council that a West Grey official replied last week to say the municipality “is not interested in having any partnership discussions whatsoever.”West Grey Mayor Christine Robinson, who is also chair of the West Grey Police Service board, confirmed she “sent some correspondence to Mayor Boddy indicating that West Grey, at this time, would not be entertaining discussions for a partnership.”The municipality’s focus is on ensuring West Grey has an enhanced police service, she said.Boddy said he has had preliminary discussions with other local mayors who have expressed an interest in discussing with Owen Sound potential ways for their municipalities to partner on policing.“We’re not talking about amalgamations. We’re just trying to find ways that we can work together,” he said. “We’re happy to talk to anyone that’s interested in talking to us.”Owen Sound received an OPP costing last year that identified moving to a regionalized service as a way for the city to significantly reduce its policing costs, which are about $7.3 million annually and account for nearly 30 per cent of the city’s overall budget.Hanover, which like Owen Sound has a municipal police service, spends about $2.8 million annually on policing.