The Executive Director of the Old Town Kemptville BIA, Deron Johnston, says that the security company which was hired by the municipality to patrol North Grenville did a good job of protecting empty businesses during the COVID-19 shut down.
Deron says that, as soon as COVID-19 began, he started worrying about BIA members whose stores were left empty due to the mandatory closure of nonessential businesses. “Because they were not operating, they could be vulnerable to theft and vandalism,” he thought.
Because Deron did not see the Ontario Provincial Police having a strong presence in the downtown, he approached North Grenville’s Economic Development Officer, Matt Gilmer, about the possibility of hiring a security company to make sure closed businesses and municipal buildings remained safe. “It would go a long way for the piece of mind of business owners to have someone patrolling the downtown,” he said.
He submitted a request to council, and they agreed to use municipal funds to hire a security company to patrol, not just the downtown, but all the businesses and buildings in Kemptville. It took them a little while to find a security company with the resources to take on the job, but they finally found one and worked out a contract. Shield Security was officially hired on a five-month contract at the end of April at a cost of $14,560.
“We understand that these are challenging times for local business owners, and recognize this is one small way we can respond to the needs of local businesses,” Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman said in a press release in April.
Shield Security started patrolling the municipality on a rolling schedule in March, and the BIA is very happy with the professionalism that their officers displayed while on duty. They definitely prevented some vandalism at both private businesses and municipal buildings. “They approached almost everyone at night to make sure they were safe and well, and to make it obvious that the commercial areas were being watched,” Deron said. “It more than justified the contract.”
The contract with Shield Security is up on July 15, but Deron says it might be valuable to keep them on in some capacity. “There is the potential for more shenanigans, as people get excited about getting out of the house,” he says. That being said, he is cognisant that it is taxpayer’s dollars being used to fund the contract. “The need may not be as much as before,” he said. “Maybe just in a reduced capacity.”
Matt Gilmer says that, at this point, the municipality does not intend to extend the contract past July 15. “With the Province preparing to announce stage three of their reopening plan, we believe there will no longer be a need for the additional security measures,” he said in an email. “The municipality will continue to work with the OPP to ensure that every effort is being taken to protect the North Grenville business community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”