By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The Town’s Community Peace Officers (CPO) issued 18 tickets in 398 bylaw calls between April and June of this year. Administration presented the community’s second quarter report during the Aug. 28 Council meeting, Council’s first scheduled meeting since June.
Of the 18 tickets issued, a third were issued in response to odour complaints. Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun could not confirm how many of those were issued to Champion Petfoods. A total of 50 offensive odour complaints were received from residents during the quarter.
The remaining 12 bylaw tickets issued April to June consisted of eight tickets for unlicensed dogs, one ticket for a roaming cat, one ticket for a tracked vehicle on the highway, and one ticket for a misleading business license with inaccurate information.
Morinville Community Peace Officers were involved in 457 calls over the quarter. Non bylaw-related calls included issuing 17 tickets under the community’s Positive Ticketing Program, an initiative that rewards youth for positive and safe behaviour. Additional calls ranged from assisting in the trapping of an animal to assisting RCMP with accident calls.
On the provincial side of the job, CPOs issued 86 provincial warnings, including traffic offences ranging from distracted driving to non-functioning brake lights. During the same period the CPOs issued 80 provincial tickets, including 14 speeding tickets and 11 tickets for expired licence plates.
Some members of Council expressed their concerns on the low ticket-to-call ratio. Councillor Nicole Boutestein said she was having difficulty with the emphasis on education. “I wonder the amount of time being spent educating,” she said. “I think you can get to a point where you over educate people.”
Deputy Mayor David Pattison also questioned the low ticket numbers, particularly when 50 per cent of provincial matters resulted in a ticket being issued. “It seems that there is a disproportionate number of enforcements on the provincial side,” Pattison said. “We have a number of bylaws and we keep seeing the same sort of stats on the bylaws. They seem to be stronger on the provincial.”
Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun reminded Council not all of the 457 calls were bylaw-related, and not all of the bylaw calls could have resulted in a ticket. In some examples, Illegally-parked cars were gone by the time CPOS arrived or the matter had been resolved by the time the complaint was investigated. In other cases, complainants were unwilling to make a statement, something that is necessary should a bylaw ticket be fought in court. The CAO said these and other situations are why there are far more calls than tickets. She also pointed out the CPOs principal role with respect to bylaw matters is to make residents aware of the rules.
“Keeping people in the public informed on what’s in these bylaws and what applies to them and what doesn’t is foremost,” she said. “Otherwise we start to get a little bit militant that we’re enforcing every breath someone takes. I think it’s better making the people aware of what they’re responsible for under those bylaws. That’s the priority.”
Oyarzun said the CPO program as well as the Community Standards and Municipal Development Plan are all fairly new in the community. As people become more informed she believes they will either comply or tickets will increase.
Many of the calls CPOS went on in the second quarter were first time calls. The program tracks complaints and second complaint visits for the same infraction usually result in a ticket.
This is all great stuff, but let’s remind ourselves that these statistics only reflect those complaints actually received by the Town. For whatever reason (ranging from an inability to connect with the by-law folks in a timely manner, to a general feeling that “nothing ever happens anyway, so why bother”), most people in this community, will probably NOT make a complaint about something unless and until the situation gets way out of control.
The “how”and “what” of our CPOs reporting to Town Council MUST be closely examined for relevancy.
Trust me folks, obviously the pet food plant stench problem still hasn’t been resolved and perhaps the time has come to shut that place down, until they GET IT FIXED!!!