Norfolk’s supervisor of bylaw enforcement shared this week a little-known consequence of current planning policies on the public complaints process.
Former police officer Jim Millson told Norfolk council on Jan. 26 that the trend to smaller lots in subdivisions has made residents more conscious of bylaw infractions on neighbouring properties. The result is a higher call volume and upward pressure on enforcement costs.
Millson made the observation during a thorough-going discussion of bylaw enforcement and what his department will look like in 2021. Unusual for a middle manager, Millson spoke vigorously against a staff proposal to cut his department by one officer. Estimated savings from the move is $104,300.
“There is an expectation that municipalities will enforce the bylaws they create,” Millson said.
Council appeared ready to accept the reduction heading into Day 5 of budget talks. However, after receiving several dozen emails and a number of phone calls in opposition, council thought better of it and decided to keep the front-line position.
“I feel we’ve received overwhelming support from our constituents,” said Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman. “I’m looking at really keeping the front-line service.”
Bylaw enforcement in Norfolk is top-of-mind in many quarters for a host of reasons. Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus said the number of nuisance marijuana-grow operations sanctioned by Health Canada but not inspected by the same now exceeds 100.
As well, there are parking issues during the tourist season in Port Dover, Turkey Point and Long Point.
CAO Jason Burgess explained that a recent restructuring of the bylaw department translates into a service enhancement even with the elimination of one officer.
Millson himself said he’s been able to resolve nearly 15 per cent of complaints at point-of-contact since he was hired last year.
As well, the clerk’s department assumed responsibility for bylaw enforcement Jan. 1. As a result, a great deal of bylaw paperwork has been shifted to this department. This leaves more time for officers to respond to complaints.
For her part, Mayor Kristal Chopp was surprised to hear Millson debate the recommendation of Norfolk’s senior leadership team.
“I feel like I’m hearing advocacy from a community member,” the mayor said. “I’m a little blown away to be honest. Did you not have a chance to discuss this with the clerk (Andy Grozelle)?”
Burgess shared a similar observation later in the discussion when he remarked that his phone “is blowing up” with commentary from Norfolk staff who feel Millson was doing an end-run on behalf of his department counter to the cost-cutting ethic that has dominated Governor Simcoe Square in recent months.
Chopp said a better use of this $100,000 may lie in hiring a firm to lobby Health Canada to crack down on stinky grow operations that abuse their permits. Another option, she said, is to pay someone from health and social services to establish a presence at library branches and steer marginalized individuals in the direction of social supports.
“If you want to address downtown issues, bylaw isn’t going to help people find a place to live or address substance abuse problems,” Chopp said.
The vote in favour of keeping five front-line officers was 6-2.