There appears to be interest among municipalities in Grey County funding their own police forces to discuss the creation of an amalgamated service.
Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy tells Bayshore Broadcasting News he wants to engage other municipalities in Grey County, especially Hanover and West Grey, to discuss police services.
Boddy says he wants to explore the idea of putting together a service that is Grey County operated to achieve cost-savings for all ratepayers.
According to 2018 budget documents, Owen Sound spent $7.3-million on police services last year, West Grey's cost was $3.3-million and Hanover paid $2.8-million.
"We've now got three municipally-run police forces being West Grey, Hanover and Owen Sound," Boddy says. "And, we've got other smaller townships that aren't really happy with the OPP service they're getting."
"In my mind, it makes sense that the three police forces now would look at amalgamating and having a Grey County force."
The mayor of Hanover has interest in the concept.
Sue Paterson says the town is committed to working with neighbouring municipalities on opportunities to benefit residents and would be open to discussing a county police force.
"A continuation of the exceptional community policing that we now have along with cost savings would not only benefit Hanover, it would benefit all police services involved," Paterson says.
Paterson says the advantages of an enlarged service would reduce the need for overtime costs in the case of short-term absences.
"Coverage for the area would also be enhanced," Paterson says. "As would the ability to deal with extreme emergency events."
West Grey Mayor Christine Robinson says she would certainly participate in any conversation about a county police force, but notes their service is already in the process of exploring expansion options.
The West Grey Police Service is currently doing a costing review to provide service for the Township of Chatsworth, which currently contracts Ontario Provincial Police.
"West Grey Police Service is already looking at expanding its services, both within West Grey as well as serving beyond our borders," Robinson says. "I believe it's the West Grey Police mandate of community-centred policing and community-first service that makes West Grey Police Services an attractive option for expansion."
"If a service can be created that continues to benefit our residents, continues being as effective and impactful as we currently are, and continues being cost-efficient for all ratepayers, then West Grey would certainly participate in the conversation."
In all, Grey County municipalities spent more than $23-million on police services last year.
In addition to the $7.3-million, $3.3-million and $2.8-million spent by Owen Sound, West Grey and Hanover for municipal services respectively, municipal staff and budget documents indicate Ontario Provincial Police services cost Meaford $1.8-million, Georgian Bluffs $1.5-million, Grey Highlands $1.85-million, Chatsworth $1-million, Southgate $1.1-million and The Blue Mountains $2.7-million.