The City of Grand Forks council voted in favour of extending bylaw service another year, but the proposal was not without pushback.
Council considered a motion at the Oct. 16 regular council meeting to approve an extension of the bylaw service for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018.
According to the recommendation presented to council, “The 2018 budget will reflect the contnuation of the bylway services position until Oct. 30, 2018.”
The memo presented to council by staff notes that since the city contracted a bylaw officer in July 2016 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
In 2017, the bylaw officer removed 42 camps; acted on 10 unsightly premises and is working on five more; resolved 169 watering restriction violations and issued many notices against feeding the deer. The position of bylaw officer is currently held by Bud Alcock.
The memo also notes that with recent changes to the Parks Amendment Access bylaw, which restrictions access to certain areas at certain times, “a relatively aggressive enforcement regime will be required.”
“The request for this extension, though, is primarily due to the transient and homeless problem which has gripped Grand Forks. With proposed changes coming to our park camping rules, we believe the problem should soon be minimized,” the memo notes.
Council adopted the parks access bylaw at the Oct. 30 meeting, which prohibits the presence of tents in public parks between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Dave Bruce, who presented the memo to council as head of the Building Inspection and Bylaw Services department, noted that during the winter he would typically deal with bylaw issues; however this year’s huge increase in building activity warrants the extension of the bylaw service though the winter.
Prior to the hiring of the bylaw officer in July 2016 there was no consistent bylaw enforcement, Bruce noted during discussion.
Couns. Bev Tripp and Julia Butler both spoke against the motion, believing the city should look at other alternatives and did not need to spend the money.
Butler in particular said there were other considerations for how to cut corners in the budget.
“If this is full time are we running the risk of a union position with higher wages?” Butler questioned. She also suggested staff look at cost sharing measures with other municipalities.
“That way we might be able to save a few pennies while still covering the services,” she said.
The budgetted cost of contracted bylaw enforcement in 2017 is $73,600.
Tripp floated the idea of bringing Alcock back in the spring when bylaw services, especially dealing with the issues of homeless camps, kick back up for the summer months.
However, other councillors were in favour of continuing bylaw services, noting the positive impact it had had on other city services, including the City Park Campground.
“To possibly risk losing him or having him come back at a later date as suggested, would be a very bad move,” Grand Forks mayor Frank Konrad said.
“The discussion is focusing on homeless camps, but there are other bylaws our bylaw officer deals with … and they don’t go away,” Thompson said, noting issues like parking, deer, and business licences.
The motion carried, with Butler and Tripp voting against the motion.