OPP closing Smiths Falls communications centre next year

More than 100 employees, most of them civilians, will be looking for work elsewhere when the call and dispatch centre closes.

More than 100 OPP members, mostly civilians, currently work there

The decision to close the call and dispatch centre in Smiths Falls, Ont., was 'not made lightly,' OPP said in an email to Radio-Canada. (Olivier Plante/CBC)

The Ontario Provincial Police will shut down its provincial communication centre in Smiths Falls, Ont., next year.

OPP confirmed the news Thursday in an email to Radio-Canada, saying the "target for closure is early next year, with a phased decommissioning to be completed by June of 2022."

The centre serves all of eastern Ontario, from the Quebec border to Trenton, Ont., and northwest to Algonquin Provincial Park. It answers emergency and non-emergency 911 calls, dispatching first responders when necessary.

Just over 100 OPP members, most of them civilians, work at the centre. The email said OPP will support everyone affected by the closures, which could include transfers to other locations.

Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow called the closure "a big loss in the community" and "a real disruption" for employees and their families.

"People who have lost jobs before realize the uncertainty of the future and the challenges that brings, and so it's unwelcome news without a doubt," Pankow said.

Mayor hopes to keep employees in Smiths Falls

According to Pankow, the communications centre has been in Smiths Falls for nearly 20 years. He said the one positive is that the closure doesn't happen until next year, so employees will have time to look for other employment.

"That's a really difficult thing to do at the best of times and, of course, it's a challenging time during a pandemic," Pankow said.

"My hope is that we can keep these people in our community."

The decision to eliminate the communications centre "was not made lightly," OPP said, and only came about after a "comprehensive review" of things like workload and facility costs.

Call-taking and dispatch duties will be moved to the communication centre in Orillia, Ont. OPP said there would be no impact to front-line policing.

In a statement, the Ontario Provincial Police Association said it is "in communication with our membership at large" and that it's committed to helping members affected by the impending closure.

With files from Radio-Canada

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