Bylaw concerns brought to Castlegar budget

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
February 1st, 2019

City council has asked to be given a comprehensive list of alternatives vis-a-vis local bylaw enforcement as part of the city’s operational budget discussion at a meeting Wednesday evening.

Currently, the city has one half-time bylaw enforcement officer contracted through Commissionaires BC at a cost of $36,800.

While the city’s collective agreement with its union does have said job title the cost savings in contracting out the position made it the more viable alternative, according to city CAO Chris Barlow.

“The position is already there, so we could bring it in house, if we wanted to,” said Director of Civic Works Lucas Pitts.

Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff brought up the possibility of increasing the city’s bylaw enforcement capacity as the city grows and city council enacts more bylaws (for example, a 2018 bylaw banning smoking in a public municipal open space, which ticket carries with it a penalty of $100 if paid within 30 days, and $250 thereafter).

Councillor Maria McFaddin asked if staff could bring back cost projections for a three-quarter position and a full-time position, both if contracted out or brought in house.

Pitts said that, from his perspective, there’s some merit to looking at a cost-benefit analysis.

“One of the largest complaints I probably receive is that the bylaw officer is nowhere to be found when they are needed,” he said, adding there is some confusion in the public as to what, exactly, falls under the bylaw officer’s purview.

“Certainly, there’s lots of overlap,” he said, referring to the responsibilities of bylaw enforcement, police, animal control, etc. He explained that while traffic enforcement and jaywalking are police issues, incorrect parking falls to bylaw enforcement.

He said our current bylaw enforcement system is entirely complaint driven.

“We do not look for problems, problems find us,” he said.

This would represent one of the matters up for debate should council opt for increased enforcement – for example, should there be a bylaw officer on hand during public festivals in local parks to police the anti-smoking bylaw and actively ticket infractions, or should the onus continue to be on residents to report any issues they encounter?

These sorts of concerns could range from consuming alcohol in a public park, noise violations, unsightly premises, illegal parking, littering … the list goes on.

There are also financial implications to such an increase, as it would either mean increasing taxes or cutting funding to some other budget area.

“The eternal question council and the city have to ask is, is it a big enough problem for you to spend the extra money?” Pitts said.

City staff will be bringing forward a list of options, and their potential financial implications, for council to consider.

Pitts declined to comment on what the end result may look like, arguing that such speculation is premature.

“They (council) can go any one of many directions on this, but that debate hasn’t happened yet.”

The second of three meetings debating the city budget is slated for Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Forum.

Categories: Politics