Meadow Lake census could raise policing costs

By Mac Christie

Last week city council learned policing costs will stay the same this year, but possible population growth could be a double-edged sword for the city, according to city manager Bruno Kossmann.

Currently, the city pays the rate for urban municipalities with RCMP detachments of $52.45 per capita. However, if the city is found to have a population of over 5,000 people on the 2011 census, Kossmann noted the city would have to enter into a direct agreement with the RCMP.

In that case,  he said the city would probably pay 70 per cent of the cost of each officer, a percentage estimated to be around $100,000.

“Meadow Lake has the pleasure of having 11 RCMP members,” said Kossmann. “If 70 per cent is $100,000, times 11, that’s $1.1 million.”

He added current police costs are about $250,000, calculated by using the 2006 census data, which lists Meadow Lake as having a population of 4,771.

But the 2011 census could have other large implications for the city.

Kossmann noted Meadow Lake must have a population over 5,000 in order to maintain city status. However, he said on any census after this one, that won’t be the case.

When Meadow Lake applied for city status in 2009, it was felt the population had increased over 5,000 due to building permits and other data. A special census done in 2004 had found the population to be 5,012.

While the population dropped for the 2006 census, Kossmann added the city feels the population will be over 5,000 this year, and thus, Meadow Lake will remain a city.

Coun. Jeff Fechter noted the two are separate issues.

“Whether or not we had decided to become a city, if we hit 5,000 on the census that (will put) us in a higher range of police billing,” he said.

He added council hasn’t officially been informed of an increase, just that there could be one.

Fechter said the numbers he has heard, while less than $1.1 million, showed the possible cost to be triple the current fee of $250,000.

“If we can’t afford it, then you have to readjust,” he said.

Coun. Curtis Paylor said he expects there to be negotiation on the matter.

“When the new census comes out we’ll have to evaluate where our numbers are at and then sit down. There’s sort of an open-ended invitation.”

Fechter also noted, he’s not the only one with concerns about cost at the council table.

“When our municipal budget revenues are $5.4 million, and we’re going to spend 20 per cent on policing alone? That’s not feasible, or something we can sustain.”

Paylor added even if the city doesn’t cross the threshold this year, at some point in the future, it will happen.

Population data from the 2011 census will be made available in February 2012.

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