FORT ASSINIBOINE — Hoping to extend a 65-day termination clause within the agreement to one year, Woodlands County council opted last week to delay signing a five-year agreement with Lac Ste. Anne County to provide county peace officer enforcement services.
Councillors passed a motion at their Jan. 16 meeting in Fort Assiniboine to postpone a final decision regarding the agreement until their Feb. 1 meeting.
Manager of protective services Sheldon Schoepp said Woodlands County first entered an agreement with Lac Ste. Anne to provide enforcement services on Jan. 1, 2020.
It was a three-year contract wherein Woodlands would pay an annual rate of $84,960 for 80 hours of enforcement services within the municipality each month.
On Nov. 22, 2022, Lac Ste. Anne County submitted notice to Woodlands of the termination of the current contract, Schoepp said. The administrations of both municipalities then began discussing the terms of a new agreement.
Schoepp said that on Jan. 5, 2023, a new draft agreement was received for a five-year period starting Feb. 1.
The same number of hours, 80 in total, will be provided to Woodlands each month through the agreement. In exchange, this will cost the county $107.25 per hour, though that amount will increase by three per cent on the first day of each new year.
Schoepp said that additional community peace officer hours within Woodlands could be negotiated between the two municipalities, adding that administration was in favour of extending those hours.
“We’re paying a good rate; we want a good service,” he said.
Although council could have signed the agreement that day, administration noted that they were still waiting to hear back from Lac Ste. Anne County regarding a possible amendment.
He indicated that Woodlands is looking to amend a clause within the agreement that states either party can terminate the service by giving 60 days’ notice. Instead, Woodlands would like to change that requirement to one year’s notice in writing.
Chief administrative officer Gordon Frank indicated that would put the county in a precarious position if Lac Ste. Anne suddenly decided to terminate the service, as it would take upwards of 10 to 12 months to get its own peace officers in place.
Coun. Peter Kuelken asked about oversight of the enforcement services provided to the county and what would happen, say, if the county began receiving a large number of complaints about Lac Ste. Anne’s peace officers.
Assuming Lac Ste. Anne County agrees to extend the termination clause, Frank indicated they would have to give Lac Ste. Anne a year’s notice before terminating the service.
Coun. Dave Kusch noted the county originally went this route of hiring out another municipality’s peace officers because they couldn’t afford to put their own in place.
With the exception of the termination clause, he indicated he was otherwise fine with signing the agreement, adding that if things keep improving financially, Woodlands can look at hiring their own peace officers within five years.