PORT ALICE – Police enforcement in the Village of Port Alice has been transferred the Port Hardy RCMP detachment effective Monday, Port Alice Mayor Gail Neely told Port Alice Council last week.
Neely’s comments were prompted by a letter to council from residents Lyle and Maggie Flostrand, in attendance at Wednesday’s regular council meeting.
Councillors expressed their concern over the lack of communication on the part of the RCMP regarding the changes.
Costs relating to overtime pay and staffing the office were cited as the reasons for the changes said Neely.
Neely said she was told officers dispatched from Port Hardy operating in Port Alice are paid at the regular rate. Officers living in Port Alice who are pressed into service during their off hours are paid at an overtime rate and are therefore more expensive.
Currently there are two officers living in Port Alice who work in Port Alice and maintain an office there. Neely told councillors that the staffing change would result in dispatching and jurisdiction being taken over by the Port Hardy office; however, the two officers are not required to move from the community.
The expense of maintaining an office in Port Alice was also addressed in the cost-cutting move. Mayor Neely indicated the Port Alice detachment’s office would be retained, but staffed hours will be reduced.
Neely told councillors that Port Hardy’s staff sergeant told her that although the change is a cost-saving measure, ultimately the change would create greater RCMP visibility in the Village and on highway 30.
Councillor Don Vye said the confusion surrounding the situation is unacceptable.
“I think somebody needs to get something in writing as to exactly what this means to the community,” said Vye. “Do we not pay for policing? I would think we have the right to know what the contract is.”
“They don’t know for sure themselves,” said Neely. “It’s not coming from Port Hardy. The direction is coming from Victoria.”
Councillor Bruce Lloyd made a motion to ask for an RCMP delegate to come and explain to council what is going on.
“The protocol would be that the zone commander from Victoria would be the one to come and speak to us or he will send someone from down the line if not himself,” said Lloyd.
“Service from Port Hardy will be totally unacceptable, and completely impossible if the road is impassable, as does happen,” said the Flostrands in their letter to council. They believe that even if travel conditions are perfect the wait time for service coming from Port Hardy would be one hour.
In their letter the Flostrands wrote, “The money spent by the R.C.M.P. for commuting into Port Alice to offer occasional police services will negate any savings in removing our officers from residing in our village.”
North Island MLA Claire Trevena has weighed in on the issue with a letter to Minister of Public Safety Shirley Bond, asking the ministry to monitor the changes and provide assurances to residents.
“The village, which has the only major industry in the North Island, has seen the loss of its hospital and the loss of senior grades at its school; there are fears that changes will further erode the quality of life in Port Alice,” Trevena wrote.
“I would therefore urge that your ministry monitors the progress of any change in policing in the North Island closely and I would hope that you can provide guarantees that there will be no diminution in service for Port Alice.”
The RCMP office in Port Hardy was unavailable for comment.