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Decision delayed on police budget request

Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak, who has been busy attending several functions during the holiday season like Saturday’s Nelson Business Association Santa on Baker Street event, said there are many interested parties monitoring the outcome of the Provincial Police Review. — The Nelson Daily photo

Although a decision on the Nelson Police Department board budget request had been scheduled for the end of the month, the deadline has passed and no word has come from the province.

And there is no hint of when that decision will come, before the end of the year or early in the new year, said Mayor Deb Kozak, also the chair of the Nelson Police Department board.

“I think there is a lot to consider (in this decision),” she said.

“This decision, whichever way it goes, isn’t just about Nelson, it is about policing across the province.”

Not only in this province, but outside of it. Kozak noted that the mayor of Yorkton, Sask., among others, was monitoring the story as it unfolded because the Prairie city was facing the same conundrum — one shared by many municipalities as costs for protective services keep rising.

“This has got some ripples and (Clayton Pecknold) is really taking his time on this,” said Kozak.

The city and the police board are waiting for Pecknold, the director of Police Services from the provincial Ministry of Justice, to hand down his declaration on the minimal staffing required in Nelson under the B.C. Police Act.

Pecknold is looking at the Nelson Police Department’s request for $311,000 — for two additional officers and one administrative position — from last fall, a request city council originally denied.

A consultant hired by Pecknold to author an audit of the NPD’s request filed his report at the end of October. Peter Lapine’s audit examining police staffing in Nelson was reviewed by Nelson city council and the Nelson police board, with final comments on the findings being submitted back to the province Nov. 13.

The positions of either side have not changed, said Kozak, when the responses were submitted.

When the director comes down with the decision, Kozak said she would ask if the report could be shared with the public.

During pre-budget talks last fall city council denied a request by NPD for an additional $311,000 to the police budget to cover the cost of two additional officers and an administrator.

The NPD request cited an increase in workload as the reason for the staffing increase.

The review began when the Nelson police board voted to appeal city council’s decision to deny the extra funds to the province under a rarely used provision of the B.C. Police Act.

As it stands, the NPD’s approximately $4-million budget makes up 22 per cent of the city’s budget. However, the police have not added any officers in over 20 years and chief constable Wayne Holland has explained to council that the workload for NPD officers — particularly the handling of mental health cases — has increased in the last few years.

Pecknold’s decision is a legal directive which city council must adhere to, said Kozak, under the auspices of the B.C. Police Act.

Looking ahead

The Nelson police board is in the process of developing a strategic plan to guide the department for the next five years.

Input from the public was being sought to assist them in the process.

Earlier this fall, the Police Board sent out a survey to invite input from the public to help with its strategic plan.

Story originate at The Nelson Daily