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County proposing sharing court security costs with area-municipalities

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Update: Council deferred making a decision on the proposed shared court security cost funding model until next month.

Municipalities in Oxford could be sharing the cost of court security if council approves its funding model Wednesday.

The discussion around a shared court security funding model began last year, after a delegation from the Woodstock Police Services Board (WPSB) presented a request for funding to assist with increasing court security and prisoner transportation costs relative to Oxford County’s provincial courthouse in Woodstock.

Director of corporate services Lynn Buchner said that the because funding that was promised by the province is not increasing at the same pace as security costs there is a widening gap, adding that because the courthouse in Woodstock services the entire county the WPSB believes all of the area-municipalities should be sharing the cost.

The county funded $280,000 in the 2016 budget to be funded from general reserves to help fund a portion the WPSB’s costs, even though the costs were assessed at over $360,000 in 2015.

This number was decided on because it was the same amount the county distributed between police services in 2002 when they started funding court security costs in Oxford, up until 2008 when the province took over.

“The real ask was that this cost isn’t going to go away and it’s going to continue to escalate,” Buchner said. “We saw a big spike in the cost of court security back when Whitby had a shooting in their provincial courthouse… Needless to say, they’re saying this is an ongoing cost, we need to find someway to address it.”

Buchner said the county decided they needed to find a ‘made-in-Oxford solution,’ which she said makes sense for a multi-tiered municipality.

“It just makes more sense that if this is a service that does in fact serve all of Oxford County residents, then why is it not allocated on the same basis as other county services in terms of funding,” she said. “That’s why this model seems to fit potential sustainability over time, because it will fairly attribute those costs associated with providing those services the same way that other county enjoyed services are.”

Out of the eight area-municipalities, five either have no comment, express no concern or support the funding model, while three municipalities are not in support of the proposed model.

Tillsonburg and Ingersoll are requesting to remain with the status quo, with the former in support of advocacy for increased funding, while county councilor and mayor of East Zorra-Tavistock Don McKay will speak to the matter before council on Wednesday.

Even with the outliers who are opposed to the proposed funding model, the majority of municipalities support the change. This is why, Buchner said, county staff are recommending that council adopt the proposed funding model.

It is also being recommended that the Woodstock Police Service invite representation from each of the area-municipalities to sit on a local court security committee. This committee would be mandated to address threat/risk assessment methodology and develop security plans based on these assessments.

Council will vote on the proposed shared court security funding model at its meeting on Wednesday.

bchessell@postmedia.com

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