A need for enforcement
Placentia MEO becoming familiar face in region
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.
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.
Jeff Griffin has been the municipal enforcement officer with the Town of Placentia since November 2012.