Blue Mountain Ratepayers' Association

OPP presentation

Madam Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors,
Re: OPP Contract Negotiations

The BMRA Budget Review Committee wishes to table and briefly speak to the following for the July 15th Meeting regarding the OPP Service Contract.

Last Fall the BMRA‟s initial goal was to strive to get TBM‟s largest contract item, the $2.35 million per annum OPP contract, under fiscal control by leveraging some findings that the Town‟s CAO had tabled in the spring regarding Section 5.1. Much debate swirled around this option. It served a purpose in that it forced more interested parties to the table and a breakthrough came when Inspector John Trude suggested a face to face meeting with the BMRA.

At that meeting we were enlightened by Inspector Trude that despite the fact that Section 5.1 works in approximately half the 322 municipalities in Ontario, TBM is a special case because of its status as the second largest resort area in Canada after Whistler (it has 2 million visitors a year and TBM has 1.8). In other words the resort aspect is a significant part of our TBM economy and it comes with unique policing costs. This is the reality we have to face.

In parallel with the BMRA efforts a presentation was made on June 26th to the Blue Mountain POLICE SERVICES BOARD (PSB) by the COMMUNITY POLICING COMMITTEE (CPC) and its President Larry Hall. Attached is a grid that the CPC developed to outline all the options. They recommended going with Option #1 or the status quo, with the proviso that over the next 5 years of the OPP contract, effort be put into dealing with escalating salary and contract increases. They emphasized community safety as the 1st priority and fiscal responsibility as something to be dealt with over time. The BMRA is not that far from the CPC position, except that we need to deal with fiscal responsibility before signing another contract.

How can we get TBM‟s largest contract item under control when faced with an 8.55% OPP increase in 2014? This should not just be a pass-through cost. What steps are being considered to absorb these cost hikes? For example:

  •   Inspector John Trude impressed upon us that the best way to deal with escalating costs is in the area of prevention. We believe that an effective STA Licensing Program that is cost neutral (funded by the STA businesses) and designed to encourage pro-active management of their units and not reactive compliance (via by-law enforcement and resident complaints) is the only viable way to reduce policing costs over time in our community. This would enable the town to consider moving towards Option 2 or Option 3 in the future without compromising community safety.
  •   The Property Tax rate for STA units should be based on the „commercial use‟ assessment and not the rate for „residential use‟ assessment. This would be more representative of a fairer „user pay‟ system.
  •   It is time to look at our economic base in the Resort area of TBM in conjunction with Collingwood. How can that partnership be optimized?

It‟s appropriate to briefly review what happened at the OMB hearing. A clear decision by the OMB (supported by the District Court of Ontario in denial of an appeal) confirmed the incompatibility issues and inappropriateness of commercial STA businesses in single family residentially designated zones. The rulings also determined the need to establish separate areas through zoning where commercial STA businesses could locate and operate, together with a licensing regime to establish standards and controls.

Now let‟s compare two very different business models and their impact on the residential neighbourhoods – each in the business of providing tourist accommodations. The Blue Mountain Resort manages its business completely independently of any assistance by the residents through: a) the proactive management and preplanning for peak periods, b) a trained and visible security team c) eyes-on-the- ground via min-bus drivers and paid staff. They have been sensitive when developing their locations to minimize their impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. As a result, we have never heard a resident complain to us about BMR operations.

Contrast that to the decade long complaints about STA operations. By moving into residential areas with no buffering, high occupancy loads, and no interest in addressing incompatibilities, the difference is: a) reactive response to problems, only upon complaint b) no trained security c) no apparent eyes-on-the- ground, regular patrol of units d) cost effective and no impetus to change procedures. Self-regulation has worked well for BMR but has NOT worked for STA operators. Why?

In our opinion, residents‟ rights and well-being are considered inconsequential compared to STA owner/operators‟ business objectives. In fact, residents de facto subsidize by providing the „eyes-on-the- ground‟ instead of the STA owner/operators employing paid staff, which allows them to keep their costs down. But the cost of resident complaints to the police right now is paid for by ALL taxpayers. The goal of any licensing program must compel STA businesses to manage ALL costs associated with their business model. It must be cost neutral for the taxpayer, while removing residents from the imposition of being the unpaid property managers and improving compatibility. Licensing and an effective system of penalties/fines are needed at this time to protect both residents and visitors to our community.

How will this help the policing budget? With the addition of a new Program Manager/Bylaw Officer (paid by the licensing fees) providing proactive by-law enforcement during the daytime and police assistance at night, together with pro-active STA management the number of policing calls should be reduced over time.

We direct your attention to the CPC grid attached. Note: that their Option #1 shows in the “Address Affordability” box as 0 whereas the Section 5.1 (no contract) Option gets top marks with 3 checks. Conversely, Section 5.1 got a 0 in the “Lead Crime Prevention Initiatives” box and Option #1 gets 2 check marks. But Section 5.1 would rate higher because improvement in Crime Prevention would be strengthened thorough our suggestions made that TBM deal once and for all with the STA by-law and licensing program as endorsed by the OMB.

Therefore, returning to the options laid out in the CPC grid, we feel that fiscal responsibility can be optimized by dealing with these issues before signing an unaffordable 5 year contract with the OPP.

We recommend:

  1. That given the imprudence of signing a 5 year contract in the face of unknown additional cost increases coming down in addition to the 8.55% salary increases in 2014, that Council confirm that they would be ready to trigger the 1 year cancellation clause if costs beyond 2014 are significantly out of line with economic realities. In other words, “Address Affordability” now; that is simply good stewardship that we expect from our Council.
  2. We propose that a blended Option between #s 1 and 2 be tabled. It would be for 14 Officers. Currently Option #1 has 15.44 officers and Option #2 has 13.74. The Cost between Option #1 and 2 is respectively: $2,690,000 and $2,450,000. Our rational for this is that while the BMRA likes the lower cost of Option # 2, we support more coverage than offered under Option #2. Until an STA licencing regime is implemented, the community requires more policing coverage to continue to respond to resident complaints. Therefore we are recommending a blend between #1

and #2 of 14 Officers. In other words we totally agree with Inspector Trude‟s advice that we need proactive coverage from the OPP regarding the STA issue.

  1. Inspector Trude assured us that that no group of citizens in TBM would be discriminated against in terms of OPP services and that “the process is circular not linear”. In other words, that Residents impacted by STAs will never be limited to only calling the posted owner/operators and are free to call the OPP directly. To avoid misunderstanding, all these matters regarding STA licensing and by-law enforcement should be clearly articulated in the new Police Services Contract.
  2. There needs to be more effort by the Town to offset the looming large increase in Policing costs. Savings need to be found instead of just passing these costs on to the taxpayers. A place to start is with more analysis of what “preventive” financial benefits of policing could potentially accrue to our community as a result of STA licensing. But we must be clear that simply hiring a Manager/By-Law Officer to support licencing will not reduce the number of police officers. It all depends on Licensing and how weak or strong the incentive/rules are to encourage STA owners to self-police their units.

In closing, a clear decision by the OMB (supported by the District Court of Ontario in denial of an appeal) confirmed what action was required to finally deal with the STA issue and that issue is a very good example because it also has the bonus of dovetailing with Inspector Trude‟s “prevention” advice of dealing with escalating costs.

On behalf of the BMRA Budget Review Committee thank you for your consideration of this matter.