STELLARTON – A former Stellarton police chief is calling the town “dysfunctional” in light of council’s recent decision to stay with the status quo in policing.
Hughie Muir, who worked in the town’s police department for 30 years before retiring, said Tuesday the town’s decision doesn’t address any of the concerns related to the high cost of policing.
“I also did not see anywhere in (police commission chairman Don Taylor’s) statement where reference was made to ongoing budget overruns, what the proposals were from other parties and what the reasoning might be for trying to bind New Glasgow, Trenton and Westville and the county to Stellarton’s future vision of policing,” he said.
He said councillors Denise Taylor and Judith MacLellan both tried to explain the decision, but in the end little information was given as to how the town came to its decision.
“I worked for the Town of Stellarton for 30 years and have lived here much longer. I know most of these decision makers very well so I will be as generous as I can be. “It is dysfunctional and seldom agrees on anything,” he said.
Muir said the entire process was flawed from the beginning. It started in July 2013 when Stellarton notified two other municipal units and the RCMP that it would be accepting proposals in regard to a change in policing in the town.
At the time, police commission chair George Megeney said the town’s policing budget was $1.5 million for 4,600 people and “costs were going through the roof.”
Muir said New Glasgow announced in October 2013 it wouldn’t be submitting a proposal because of lack of information supplied by Stellarton.
“By this point, I had already seen much of the information which was/ wasn’t provided to New Glasgow, by Stellarton, and I was fully aware that New Glasgow hadn’t received anywhere close to the information they needed to make a proposal that would have been in keeping with their best practices and standards,” he said.
Muir said he attended the Stellarton meeting in October to let the public know that New Glasgow didn’t receive everything it needed for its proposal, but he said he came away from the meeting feeling like it was “waste of time.”
He said he felt Coun. Denise Taylor’s recommendation of having a public meeting on policing was a good idea, but it never happened.
“Just imagine that, the public actually having a say in the democratic process,” he said.
Policing in Stellarton came up for discussion again in March 2014 when a town councillor questioned if a “back room deal had been struck to accept a proposal for a joint Stellarton/Westville policing deal,” he said.
Muir said Megeney had told fellow councillor Denise Taylor that he “thought a deal had been reached at the committee meeting involving the two departments, but other town councillors were unaware of such an agreement.
“For whatever reason, a week or so following that March meeting, Stellarton now had a new police commission chairman, Don Taylor,” he said.
Policing was not brought up again until June 4, when New Glasgow announced it had received word from Stellarton that the status quo with policing would remain in effect.
However, he said, this notification went out before town council had a chance to give its final approval on the committee recommendation.
“Why were New Glasgow and the other parties notified prior to the rubber stamping actually being carried out?” he asked.
The police review committee made two recommendations during Monday’s meeting. The first being that the Town of Stellarton maintain the status quo of the Stellarton Police Department.
Their second recommendation was that the Town of Stellarton request that the minister of justice implement a policing study with respect to the amalgamation of policing in Pictou County and that the town commits to adopting the recommendations of the report once completed.
“What is Plan B?” Muir asks in the event the minister doesn’t approve their plans.
“The committee concluded that none of the proposals presented are in the long-term best interest of Stellarton or Pictou County based on short- and long-term financial obstacles, as well as the lack of ‘big picture’ consideration,” chairman Taylor read prior to the council vote. Muir would like someone to explain what this actually means.
“Some of the decisions made by Stellarton’s elected officials have certainly caused me to question whether or not voting in this town is worthwhile,” he said. “This particular ‘status quo’ policing decision has confirmed for me that becoming involved in voting in this town is pretty well a waste of my time and an exercise in futility.”