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Penetanguishene mayor, CAO pressing Jill Dunlop to break four weeks of 'radio silence'

Taxpayers might unexpectedly pay $400k over CNCC policing costs by province, CAO Lees informs police services board
Speaking to the Penetanguishene Police Services Board during their quarterly meeting on June 14, town CAO Jeff Lees (top row, far left) addressed the difficulty council has had in contacting Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop. The matter is in regards to a police billing change, which could cost over $400,000 to Penetanguishene taxpayers if the conflict isn't resolved.

Penetanguishene town council wants to bring the fight to the local MPP, but it’s like punching a brick wall.

CAO Jeff Lees addressed the Penetanguishene Police Services Board (PSB) Monday with an update on the lack of two-way communication between Penetanguishene council and Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop.

The topic of the correspondence between council and provincial government was one of the matters of consent during the quarterly PSB agenda.

Lees provided board members with the current status of the decision by the Minister of the Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, to force municipalities with similar correctional facilities to accept an OPP contract billing model, which could unexpectedly tax Penetanguishene residents for over $400,000 if left unaddressed.

Submitted to the PSB were three letters: a letter dated March 23 was sent by the ministry to Lees formalizing that program funding for police institutions would be ending after December 31, 2021; the second letter dated May 7 expressed disappointment on behalf of council toward the decision, while also requesting a meeting from Solicitor General Jones as well as Dunlop; and the final letter of May 14 was sent by mayor Doug Leroux to Jones and Dunlop as a subsequent follow-up.

To date, no response has come forth from MPP Dunlop’s office.

“We’re a little disappointed that for the last four weeks it's been radio silence,” explained Lees to the police services board, “but certainly his worship will be following up with our MPP -- and ultimately the ministry (of the Solicitor General) -- in hopes that we can gain some traction on this.”

“As council has confirmed,” said Lees, “it really is not acceptable that we get nine months’ notice; that there's potentially a $400,000 impact to our residents in Penetanguishene. Certainly in any given year, but in a year like this, I would suggest it's only compounded.

“We wanted to provide these (letters) for information to the board, recognizing that the financial aspect of policing is within council's role; we did feel it was important to bring the board up to speed.”

Chair Brian Cummings, who's also a town councillor, also chimed in.

“It's really disappointing hearing this news, of course, because it could potentially, as Jeff said, impact our residents by another $400,000 or more. However, they have put their foot down, so we'll have to see what happens in the future.”

MidlandToday reached out to Dunlop’s office for comment, but didn't receive a response by press-time.

Details on the Police Services Board quarterly meeting, including the letters sent to the Ministry of the Solicitor General and MPP Dunlop, can be found on the Town of Penetanguishene website.