Discussions about future of local policing have begun

By Kirk Winter

In a far-reaching press scrum, Mayor Andy Letham and CAO Ron Taylor discussed policing in Kawartha Lakes, their hopes concerning the city deficit, information about aquatic programs and their initial impressions of a return to patio season across the city.

In an exchange with reporters, Letham responded to a question about how the George Floyd incident in the U.S. might impact policing locally.

Letham said that the police budget is approved by the Police Services Board, of which he is a member. Meetings have already begun, “and everyone is being open- minded about the future.”

A large rally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement marched to Kawartha Lakes Police Service building recently. Photo: Roderick Benns.

Letham added that “at this stage the impact (of the Floyd incident) on the 2021 policing budget is unknown.”

The mayor said “we can do better” regarding policing and racial justice in Kawartha Lakes.

On the issue of the $3.2 million deficit the pandemic has caused the city to run, Taylor was forthcoming on many of the moving parts involved in paying that debt down.

“As of right now there are no new sources of funding coming from either the provincial or federal governments,” Taylor said.

Taylor surprised many of the journalists gathered when he said, “The provincial plan for pandemic pay for front-line workers has yet to be paid out. We have been promised by the province that the money is in the pipeline.”

He added that Letham and the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus have been lobbying their respective federal members of parliament about additional immediate assistance, but nothing definite has been promised yet.

When asked if all city staff had been recalled Taylor replied, “The staff recall is going well. The call-backs are based on service requirements. Over one half of laid-off staff have been recalled with the hope that almost 100 per cent will be back working by the end of June.”

By July 1, Taylor is hoping that the Lindsay pool, libraries, splash pads and beaches will be operating nearer to normal than they have in months.

Taylor confirmed that the Forbert pool in Bobcaygeon won’t be available at all this summer because it is in the middle of undergoing extensive capital repairs.

When asked how the city plans to pay down the deficit Taylor suggested that some staff, like those responsible for summer camps, beach programs and crossing guards, will not be returned to work or hired for the summer at all.

Letham added, “I am hoping that the 2020 budget will be balanced by December. We are trying to run a smart business here. We will cover that lost revenue.”

When asked about the future of aquatic programs, both Taylor and Letham suggested their future rests in the hands of the province and what they will eventually allow to occur.

Letham was very happy to announce the opening of splash pads on June 26 with the following parameters in place: participants will be limited, washrooms will be cleaned regularly and water flow will be stopped multiple times a day and the facilities will be sanitized.

Letham promised a staff presence at all the city run splash pads because “we want the kids to have fun. City aquatic staff will be recalled to staff the splash pads as pools aren’t open yet.”

When asked about the possibility or likelihood of waterborne transmission of the COVID virus, Letham shared, “No one is discouraging us from opening these facilities. The facilities will be approved by the local health unit before re-openings occur.”

On the issues of patio re-openings Letham was also very positive about what he saw in Lindsay, Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon last weekend.

Letham said there were no concerns regarding issues like capacity. The mayor continued that businesses are adhering to the rules right across the city.

Letham did add, “Some owners will not open till they can open safely, so we expect to see other hospitality businesses gradually re-open.”

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