OPP costing key in new year for mayor

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While he's as determined as ever to see Brockville pursue an Ontario Provincial Police costing in the new year, Mayor David Henderson is also spending time on an alternative proposal.

Henderson, who in October sent shock waves through the civic political scene by announcing his intention to seek an OPP costing, has lately been recruited into efforts to explore an expanded city police force, potentially serving Prescott and Augusta Township.

“Brainstorming” is how the mayor described his role in that process in a year-end interview Friday.

And while some might think exploring ways to grow the city force while forcefully arguing for an OPP costing are contradictory, Henderson vehemently argues the opposite.

“Getting an OPP costing is the exact same thing as looking at regional options,” said the mayor.

“You're asking what kind of service can be provided at what type of price.”

“I think it's incredibly short-sighted to try to stop a process before you get all the information.”

The latter charge refers to the November 20 decision of council's finance, administration and operations committee to defer a vote on a costing to April.

Looking back not only at 2012 but also the past six years, Henderson said the OPP costing bid – which he maintains is not a first step toward replacing the 180-year-old city force, but merely a question about whether that is worth discussing – is the culmination of a long battle to rein in emergency services costs.

Years of labour arbitration awards the municipal sector considers too generous toward police and firefighters' unions have left the city no option but to explore all cost-saving options, Henderson believes.

The city is awaiting the decision of an arbitration panel on a collective agreement with its firefighters - a deal that would be retroactive for the past two years.

The new year will bring a fresh round of collective bargaining with the firefighters' union, one in which the city will push for the “composite model” recommended by its consultants: a mix of full-time and part-time firefighters, and possibly volunteers, rather than the current full-time complement.

Henderson does not expect the firefighters to co-operate with that plan, and so 2013 will bring another potentially protracted emergency services debate.

The mayor believes municipalities must now force these issues because the federal and provincial governments are out of money.

“They will have to start putting pressure downward on municipal government.”

These pressures are likely to take place against the backdrop of another provincial election in 2013, after the governing Liberals choose outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty's successor on the weekend of January 25-27.

On a more positive note, Henderson expects the new year to bring some good developments, including the mid-June opening of the Aquatarium tourist attraction, timed to happen during a Tall Ships festival and the annual wine and food festival.

The big weekend is already generating a buzz downtown, said Henderson.

“It's got to drive huge crowds next year,” he said.

The Aquatarium is adjacent to the Tall Ships Landing condominium tower, the first of the big downtown residential developments to near completion. Henderson believes the tower rising over the waterfront is a visible symbol of the city's economic transformation and a slow but steady renaissance.

The nearby Wayfare condominium project now has a sales office on site and is “moving along in micro-steps,” Henderson observed.

“These projects always take time,” said Henderson, adding they also symbolize the need for patience as the city tries to reinvent itself economically.

“But the good thing is they're starting to happen.”



High on Mayor David Henderson's 2013 wish list is undoubtedly an end to his September losing streak.

The 47-year-old mayor said he is recovering well from surgery in late September to treat a cranial aneurysm, with only minor headaches remaining from the health scare.

This year's more serious September bad news followed a gentlemen's hockey injury that sidelined Henderson the previous September.

The mayor now says the possibility that multiple trauma from sports may have helped precipitate the aneurysm is making him reconsider his hockey-intensive lifestyle.

Meanwhile, the mayor's hair is slowly growing back from what Henderson jokingly called his post-surgery “Kojak” phase.

“I'll see about keeping it. The kids are advising me two different ways,” he joked.


































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