Policing cost increase for South Okanagan community

RCMP are searching for a man that robbed a Penticton gas station at knife point. - Western News file photo
RCMP are searching for a man that robbed a Penticton gas station at knife point.
— image credit: Western News file photo

Oliver dodged a bullet and Osoyoos did not.

That was the end result of the 2016 census population count that saw Oliver remain under the 5,000 threshold for facing significant increased police costs, falling short and just 72 people.

For Osoyoos, the population count exceeded the 5,000 plateau by 85, thereby increasing the community’s police services bill from $387,000 to $903,000, an increased cost share from 30 to 70 per cent along with 100 per cent of accommodation and support costs.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said the province had both Oliver and Osoyoos below the radar for facing higher police costs after the 2016 census count, even with the creation of 300 new jobs in the South Okanagan from the new correctional facility outside of Oliver.

“We both ended up being pretty close to that 5,000 mark. We dodged a bullet and can breathe a little easier, but starting this fall, we are going to start having discussion about whether to just bite the bullet (and increase taxes) when it happens or start to put more money to create a buffer cushion so for the first three years of increased police costs, the initial impact is more palatable,” Hovanes said.

Hovanes estimates the potential added cost burden would hike police costs into the $700,000 to $800,000 bracket.

“Other communities like now in Osoyoos along with Peachland, Duncan and Creston have gone through this and our turn will probably come eventually. But we are not a boom and bust type of economy in Oliver, more steady as she goes,” said Hovanes, explaining the rapid economic growth and resulting population surge has not historically occurred in his community.

One thing Oliver does have tucked under its fiscal belt, Hovanes added, was a letter from the province saying the government will assume any extra policing costs directly attributed to the impact of the new provincial jail.

“It is built on rural band land but the province agreed those costs would not fall back on the urban residents of Oliver to absorb,” said the mayor.


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