The City should scrap the RCMP and create its own police service so it has better control of the costs, a couple of residents told council Tuesday.
That was one of the cost-cutting suggestions made at Tuesday night's last public budget session, which was focussed on development and engineering services and corporate and community affairs, which includes police, fire and bylaws. About 30 people attended the event.
Policing is the most costly service in the City, and it makes up 52 per cent of the corporate and community affairs departmental budget.
It also gets hit with increases from Ottawa that the City can't do anything about, one man pointed out at the budget meeting.
While department head David Duckworth showed a slide that put Kamloops slightly below average for policing costs, the man noted that the four most expensive police forces included in the list are municipal forces.
When those top four are removed, Kamloops is more expensive than the average.
RCMP services cost $369.69 to the average homeowner in 2012 (on an assessed value of $344,000). For 2013, that's proposed to rise to $389.01 - a boost of $19.32.
The department has put in a request for an additional two officers. It's currently at 118 members.
Mayor Peter Milobar said the number of officers is the main cost driver. While Kelowna is currently lower in policing costs than Kamloops, it is also understaffed. Kelowna added 20 officers last year and has plans to add 20 more this year. Prince George, on the other hand, has more officers than Kamloops and has higher policing costs, he said.
"Generally, it comes down to how many officers you have."
Another man spoke up to agree with the first, saying the City could train on the job. The RCMP are an expensive force and it's controlled nationally. He asked the City to conduct a serious investigation into the costs of having a municipal force.
But a third man in the crowd said the upfront costs of creating a municipal force are enormous and it wouldn't be realistic to go that route.
About 30 people attended Tuesday night's last of three departmental public budget sessions.
Now the decision making begins. On March 12, council will go over what it heard and what's on the supplemental budget list and starting balancing wants versus needs versus costs.
City transit also took some criticism, with one man who admitted he doesn't take the bus saying taxpayers shouldn't be funding a system that doesn't seem to be efficient.
"I find the buses are mostly running empty, some run parallel routes, we're not getting value for the money we contribute to public transit," he said.
He said user fees should be hiked or someone at the City should find ways to make it more efficient.
City transportation planner Erin Felker said some inefficiencies have been addressed. For example, one little-used route on Lorne Street was scrapped, while some routes are pared back in the summer because of fewer riders.
Mayor Peter Milobar pointed out it's up to council to decide where to set the fares.
Other questions were raised about downtown sidewalks, snow removal, fire hydrant upgrades at Noble Creek, carriage house sizes, and the value of onboard computers for bylaws officers.
Several people also said they could do with less frequent garbage pickup if it would save money.
© Kamloops Daily News