A plan to establish a taxpayer-funded community safety service on Salt Spring passed through the first two levels of government necessary to start the process last Wednesday.
The Capital Regional District Board accepted a recommendation from the Electoral Areas Committee, which the committee had approved earlier that day, to give an establishing bylaw first, second and third reading. The recommendation also directs staff to prepare the alternative approval process to create the new tax requisition.
The bylaw will be sent to the provincial government next to ensure the CRD is acting within its authority. Salt Spring director Gary Holman reports he hopes their positive answer will come within four to six weeks in order to start the alternate approval process by early November.
Unless 10 per cent or more of Salt Spring voters register their opposition, the new service will begin in 2020 with a preliminary requisition of $35,000 and an eventual maximum requisition set at $65,000. The service is expected to cost the owner of an average-priced home around $10 per year at the maximum requisition rate.
“That’s less than a dollar per household per month, at the maximum, and what I’m proposing at first is around half of that,” Holman told the Driftwood. “It’s a fairly small requisition and it would be filling a fairly significant gap in our services.”
A staff report on the proposed service was presented to the Electoral Areas Committee on Sept. 11 by the CRD’s manager of legal services, Steven Carey. Carey described how Holman and Salt Spring senior staffers Karla Campbell and Dan Ovington had talked to community members and the RCMP about how the CRD could assist public safety concerns.
“Kind of the best thing we’ve come up with is to establish a fund through a service that can be used and administered by CRD staff, working with the electoral area director, to do contract for service-type arrangements with local non-profits [and] individuals, and potentially through the province with the RCMP for enhanced policing, to provide additional services,” Carey said.
Services could include things like additional police patrols on summer evenings, a Citizens on Patrol group, equipment like security cameras and radios, speed watches near schools and street outreach programs.
Carey said the CRD team had investigated whether services could be funded through the grant-in-aid program, but found that wouldn’t be appropriate for things like an enhanced policing agreement.
“That’s a multi-year, $5,000-a-year kind of program,” he said.
“Looking at some of the community safety services that exist, I think this will address some of the unique concerns of the community in that you’re going to have flexibility year to year as to what you do with your money, and you’re also going to be able to enter into multi-year service agreements, which you can’t really do with grants-in-aid,” Carey concluded.
Holman told the committee he wanted to start with less than the maximum requisition because the service would be new to the community and he is not proposing to establish a formal CRD commission to provide oversight if the service is approved. Instead, an advisory group would be formed with stakeholders such as the RCMP and Salt Spring Community Services to advise what the spending priorities should be.
For more on this story, see the Sept. 18, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.
So during the incorporation referendum NO folks told us, we can’t afford to pay for policing and now we are to pay for quasi police? Here is hoping the Province tells Gary that he does not have the authority to request such a service. Remember our commissions, committees and boards are quite hamstrung.