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Community safety a priority for Richmond councillors in budget talks

The 2021 budget talks have started at the Richmond council table.
RichmondCouncilChambers
Richmond council chambers File photo

Delaying new emergency personnel for the City of Richmond didn’t seem to be a favourable option for council when preliminary 2021 budget options were presented to them this week.

Staff had come up with three budget scenarios and suggested to keep tax increases low, the city could delay hiring more police and fire fighters.

At the finance meeting this week, when presented with the option to delay new emergency personnel, something approved two years ago, Coun. Bill McNulty said now is not the time to cut back on community safety; rather, he added, it’s time to “enhance” it.

“Yes, we have a pandemic, yes, things have slowed down, but the city still has to continue to be safe,” he said.

Coun. Linda McPhail said, although revenues are down, she doesn’t think community safety is the place to start looking for savings.

“When I’ve been talking to people, they want us to focus on providing core services and I would see community safety as a core service,” McPhail said.

Coun. Carol Day said it would be “foolish” not to hire new officers this year given the shift the City of Surrey is undergoing, moving from an RCMP force to a municipal police force.

“We’ll have pick of the cream of the crop if we hire now,” she said, adding that delaying is “not wise at all.”

The city recently got a mental-health car, which includes a nurse and an RCMP officer to respond to mental-health calls, of which there were 1,473 in Richmond between January and September, which averages to five calls a day.

McNulty told the Richmond News he’d like to see another mental-health car added as well as having a social worker included in the service.

The city’s budget has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with lower gaming, facility, investment and parking revenue. Furthermore, there have been increased costs to contain the COVID-19 virus.

The city, however, received a $9.3 million grant from the federal government in early November, which, along with cost-cutting measures, has given city staff the confidence Richmond won’t have a deficit this year, according to the staff report that went to council this week.

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