Has the OPP train left the station?


(Joy Fishpool speaks to the OPP contact ad hoc committee on Monday.)

When serious issues dominate discussion, bombshells sometimes fall. But this is the first time in my memory that a bomb was delivered not by air, but by rail.

Should the ongoing discussion about the future of the Brockville Police Service end quickly and decisively with a decision to reject an Ontario Provincial Police service contract, the beginning of the end of the OPP option will be dated back to September 26, 2016, sometime between 6:30 and 7 p.m.

If my memory serves me, that was about the time when Joy Fishpool, acting manager of the OPP’s facilities section, delivered the bombshell: The conclusion that its proximity to the north-south train tracks makes Brockville’s police station a non-starter for an integrated OPP detachment.

The police station, she noted, is roughly 20 yards away from an active railway, whereas the rules the OPP follow require a distance of more than 500 metres. She mentioned response times as a key factor.

I owe a thank-you here to my former editor, Doug Coward, for doing the math on just how far the police station would have to be from its current site to meet those requirements.

I suppose, the way things have been going there, one might find room for an OPP detachment office at the 1000 Islands Mall – although the perennial complaint has been the rents are too high.

Yes, that is a lame joke, not close to the calibre of Councillor Jason Baker, who created the only levity of the night on that topic by suggesting the OPP could fit into a twin-pad arena.

Everything is, of course, very preliminary. There could be mitigating factors, or mitigating benefactors who provide the city with suitable and available space for an OPP facility in Brockville.

It may also turn out that, as the CAO of Pembroke notes, the city could pay off a brand-new new OPP facility with savings from an OPP contract.

Pembroke, however, needed a new cop shop whether or not it went OPP. That is not immediately the case here in Brockville.

Police Chief Scott Fraser, meanwhile, has no issue with train tracks and response times; in a city as small as Brockville, he notes, there is always a cruiser out and about that can respond quickly to a crisis.

It is too early to predict with assurance how the building issue will play out. But a casual observation of Monday’s meeting leads me to conclude city officials were expecting the city police station to be a fixer-upper, not a non-starter, and that a quest for a new building opens up the likelihood of costs on a whole new order of magnitude.

For now, it certainly complicates the debate. Now, both sides have homework to hand in: A costing proposal by the OPP and a facilities proposal by the city.

At the moment, the realtors are winning.