Oxford defers making a decision on shared court security funding model

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County council was divided Wednesday over a motion from warden regarding sharing court security costs.

Warden David Mayberry brought forward a motion for the proposed shared court security funding model that would see lower tier municipalities assisting Woodstock with its court costs.

Mayberry’s motion also asked for the establishment of a committee made up of non-county council members from lower tier municipalities and that the county make an annual commitment to assist with court costs through taxation.

The motion was defeated by council in a vote of five to two, with Mayberry and deputy warden Sandra Talbot being the only two to vote in favour of the motion.

Mayberry said he sensed some reluctance to the original report that was presented to council in October and decided to reword it for Wednesday’s meeting.

“I tried to reword the motion to make it a little more acceptable, but that wasn’t acceptable to council today either,” he said. “That’s fine, that’s council’s prerogative and you have to be respectful of that always.”

Council will now have to go back to the original motion prepared by corporate services, which has been deferred until a member of council brings the report forward at a future meeting.

Currently, the province has legislated that the municipality hosting the court is on the hook for any associated security and transportation costs. Funding that was promised by the province to assist with these costs has also failed to increase at the same pace of security and transportation costs, which is leading to a widening gap.

Talbot, who is also city councilor in Woodstock, said that if the courthouse were in any other municipality in Oxford they would be asking for help as well.

Counc. Stephen Molnar shot back at Talbot by saying that if the court was in Tillsonburg they would be taking care of the costs themselves.

“We’re a small town with broad shoulders, and when we have responsibilities we take them upon ourselves,” he said. “We do our own risk management and we identify opportunities… We’re currently building assets outside of our corporate border that cost our residents money because we saw value in it.”

Molnar also said he did not believe that asking for other lower tier municipalities to assist with the court costs through taxation was a path the county needed to follow.

“I’m not in favour of this approach, at all,” he said. “But if it moves to the point where there’s support for this, to take (money) from men and women’s pockets – this is not our job, this is not our operational aspect.”

Talbot responded to Molnar’s comments by saying, “I’m pretty sure if it was in Tillsonburg, they would be coming here and asking for the same kind of consideration.”

City councilor Shawn Shapton, who is also the chair of the Woodstock Police Board, sat in the audience during county council’s discussion of the proposed funding model, and said he think Talbot’s comments “hit it on the head.”

“If this was in anyone else’s community they would ask the same,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

bchessell@postmedia.com 

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