SUNDRE — Although the municipality is now -- along with other communities across the province with populations of less than 5,000 -- paying into the provincial government’s new police funding formula, the local RCMP detachment is not anticipating additional members or resources any time soon.
“I have not been advised of any updates regarding additional resources in the future,” wrote Sgt. Jody Achtymichuk, the local department’s commander, in an email.
“Additional resources to the detachment would be an asset to the detachment, but there are busier detachments and specialized sections in the province that require the resources first,” Achtymichuk said.
With eight regular members, Achtymichuk added the “Sundre detachment is fully staffed.”
“In 2020, the anticipated cost Sundre will be expected to contribute is $56,573, or $21 per capita on a population of 2,729,” said Chris Albert, Sundre’s director of corporate services, at the time during a meeting.
“The following year, the expense will rise to $84,920, or $31 per capita. In 2022, the rate will increase to $113,146, or $41 per capita. Finally, by 2023, the amount will jump to almost $170,000, or $62 per capita,” Albert said.
Chief administrative officer Linda Nelson recently said she had not heard of any changes since Albert’s presentation to council.
Mayor Terry Leslie said the reality is “we knew that it was coming.”
The mayor anticipates there will be conversations about the issue coming forward with council.
“We haven’t — yet — taken a position about that funding,” Leslie said.
“We expect that for this year, because we’ve already passed the budget, we will find a way not to pass on that increase to our ratepayers.”
He said the provincial government is in the “midst of putting together a way for municipalities like ours to have our concerns and our issues taken forward.”
Sundre is not the only rural municipality that is not benefitting from contributing to the new funding formula.
“I know the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association is frustrated with, on behalf of their members, the fact that there are no more boots on the ground, but this money is coming forward. It’s a frustrating thing,” said Leslie.
However, the mayor praised the local police department’s work in protecting the community.
“My wish is that everybody just simply respect that our local RCMP folks are doing a fabulous job, and it’s not them that’s doing this,” he said.
“They’re kind of stuck in the middle. There are probably expectations that they’re supposed to do more, but they can’t do more with less or the same — they can’t. So, it’s not on them,” he added.
“If folks want to hold anybody responsible, it sure isn’t the front line officers that are working hard to make sure they’re looking after all of the things they need to do to keep us safe.”
He added council has always enjoyed a great relationship with the local RCMP department’s commander, who meets with council and remains in regular contact to outline issues, changing crime trends, and police objectives.
“We get regular reports about how the enforcement is going.”
The mayor said he gets the impression the provincial government is attempting to address these issues with full recognition that the RCMP is limited in terms of the number of officers who can be spread out among so many communities that would undoubtedly all welcome additional police.
“They can only graduate so many members at a time from Depot,” he said.
Even so, he acknowledged that this reality does little to allay the frustration in Alberta with regards to rural crime.
“And here we are, paying more money for not a whole lot of difference in the people that are boots on the ground.”