A need for en­force­ment

Pla­cen­tia MEO be­com­ing fa­mil­iar face in re­gion

The Compass - - NEWS - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

It took three years for some of the res­i­dents of Pla­cen­tia to get used to hav­ing a mu­nic­i­pal en­force­ment of­fi­cer in the town.

Jeff Grif­fin took on the role in 2012, and has been through some rough patches on the job.

From res­i­dents get­ting in his face to one point­ing a shot­gun at him, Grif­fin has ex­pe­ri­enced all kinds of be­hav­iours when deal­ing with lo­cals. But things have been set­tling down re­cently, now that he has be­come a fa­mil­iar face in the town.

“Ev­ery­one is get­ting used to me now,” he said dur­ing a shadow ses­sion with a Com­pass re­porter last Wed­nes­day.

He learned right away he had to de­velop a thick skin. The res­i­dents had some nasty nick­names for him, but he didn’t let the neg­a­tiv­ity get to him.

But now, af­ter get­ting to know the lo­cals, the big­gest chal­lenges in his po­si­tion have changed.

Help­ing the province

To be­gin his shadow ses­sion, Grif­fin heads up the main road in south­east Pla­cen­tia to­wards Co­linet. The road is in the Pla­cen­tia ju­ris­dic­tion, but it is owned by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

Grif­fin re­ceived a call to give as­sis­tance to the province, since they don’t have an en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cer in the area. He obliged, and took a drive down the dirt road.

It is against pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion to park a recre­ational ve­hi­cle on Crown land to camp. About a dozen campers were il­le­gally parked along that road and Grif­fin was asked to check them out.

For over an hour he stopped at sites scat­tered along the road. Some were far­ther off the beaten path, while oth­ers were right on the shoul­der.

“(The gov­ern­ment) asks me to help, and I do what I can,” Grif­fin ex­plained while snap­ping a photo of one of the campers.

It be­gins to get mo­not­o­nous, pulling in off the road, get­ting out, walk­ing about the camper and snap­ping a photo. He does this for ev­ery ve­hi­cle. There are of­ten things Grif­fin has to do over and over again in his line of work, but he’s be­come use to it.

Dump­ing an is­sue

The Town of Pla­cen­tia has sev­eral cam­eras set up to catch peo­ple do­ing illegal acts. It has been a de­ter­rent, help­ing Grif­fin curb is­sues of illegal dump­ing specif­i­cally. But hav­ing cam­eras are some­times not enough to help.

Tak­ing his truck over the gravel ac­cess road to Dunville from south­east Pla­cen­tia, he pulls off on a grassy path. It’s cleared away down the cen­tre, with trees, bushes and shrubs along the sides. Ev­ery sev­eral hun­dred me­tres is a small clear­ing.

There is noth­ing out of the or­di­nary, un­til Grif­fin is al­most a kilo­me­tre in. Old ap­pli­ances, shat­tered glass, pieces of me­tal and many other items cov­ered the ground. Much of it has been there a long time, Grif­fin ex­plained. Some is ob­vi­ously new, like road hockey equip­ment and a garbage bag.

“Most of this has been here since be­fore I started,” Grif­fin said, shak­ing his head.

A clean up was or­ga­nized for another dump­ing ground ear­lier this year, but this one has not been touched yet.

“There’s a sign at the other site that reads, ‘This illegal dump site was cleaned up with your tax dol­lars,’” Grif­fin said. “That’s what it takes to clean it up. The tax pay­ers have to cover the cost.”

He pointed out sev­eral other illegal dump­ing sites as well. Pla­cen­tia has a lot of them, but Grif­fin doesn’t un­der­stand why given there’s a waste re­cov­ery fa­cil­ity open three days a week in Fox Har­bour.

“On days when the waste re­cov­ery fa­cil­ity isn’t open and I see peo­ple go­ing with garbage, I might fol­low them to make sure they don’t dump it,” he said.

Once he fol­lowed some­one to one of the illegal dump­sites, and when the man pulled over to empty his truck, he saw Grif­fin.

“He asked me, ‘What day is the dump opened?’” he re­called.

Another de­ter­rent in­volves putting photos of peo­ple’s trash on Face­book, some­thing the town has pro­moted in re­cent years. If some­one rec­og­nizes the items, it could em­bar­rass the per­son who dumped it. Grif­fin re­lies heav­ily on the public when do­ing that part of his job.

Fol­low­ing up

There is much more to a typ­i­cal day as mu­nic­i­pal en­force­ment. Some­thing Grif­fin does regularly is check on res­i­dents who have been given no­tice of non-com­pli­ance for is­sues, like a messy yard or di­lap­i­dated hous­ing.

Dur­ing this af­ter­noon, Grif­fin drove his truck past homes in Jersey­side, Dunville and near the town hall. Each one had a dif­fer­ent is­sue. One needed sid­ing re­placed, another had a new deck built on it with­out a per­mit and the third prop­erty had a lot of junk yard ma­te­rial on it.

“Many peo­ple who live here are not used to these reg­u­la­tions,” Grif­fin ex­plained. “So since I’ve been here, and I’ve been en­forc­ing them, they are slowly be­com­ing rec­og­niz­able.”

The town doesn’t charge for gen­eral per­mits, like re­plac­ing win­dows or sid­ing or paint­ing an ex­te­rior. They do re­quire it for a new shed, ex­ten­sion on a home and other items that are be­ing added on to a prop­erty. Grif­fin has to know these by­laws, and he has to be able to en­force them when nec­es­sary.

“Our men­tal­ity is, how can I go to some­one and say, ‘Hey, clean up your house,’ and then re­quire them to give us $50 for it,” he said.

He’s set­tling in nicely, en­joy­ing his job and learn­ing as he goes. And now, he has taken on some ex­tra work in­clud­ing over­see­ing the Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety of the town and help­ing with an emer­gency pre­pared­ness plan.

It has been three years and Grif­fin feels at home. He re­ceives waves from peo­ple walk­ing down the street and oth­ers beep the horn at him to say hello. It’s a dras­tic change from when he started, but he al­ways stays pre­pared.

“This job is un­pre­dictable,” he said.

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COM­PASS

Jeff Grif­fin has been the mu­nic­i­pal en­force­ment of­fi­cer with the Town of Pla­cen­tia since Novem­ber 2012.

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