Council shoots down bylaw enforcement blitz, calls for more costly fix
Coun. Jo-anne Gignac’s bid to crack down on the “physical degradation of neighbourhoods” with a once-a-month bylaw enforcement blitz was shot down Tuesday by councillors arguing for more costly solutions.
“I firmly believe that if we want to make a dent (in such complaints as dirty yards, uncut grass and unplated derelict cars), we have to invest the money to do so,” said Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt, who made a motion to refer the issue of improving bylaw enforcement to the 2021 budget.
Among the possible options are hiring more bylaw enforcement officers, who currently number 12 (one for each of the 10 wards plus two floaters) and are said to be inundated with complaints, and increasing the number of hours they work. They currently work 6.75 hours per day.
The officers get to 10 calls per day on average.
“If we increase (their hours) by a half-hour, we’d get another call per day,” suggested Ward 8 Coun. Gary Kaschak, who said he didn’t believe Gignac’s cost-neutral idea to have officers do a bylaw blitz one day per month instead of responding to complaints as they normally do would address the problem.
Increasing their hours would undoubtedly add costs and be subject to negotiations with the officers’ union, CUPE Local 543, whose members mostly work 6.75 hours a day, or 33.75 hours a week, councillors were told.
But Holt said to tackle this problem, “we have to dedicate some budget dollars.”
Gignac’s bylaw blitz idea was defeated Tuesday.
Then she and Ward 1 Coun. Fred Francis were the only councillors opposed to referring the matter to budget.
Gignac said the next budget is going to be challenging, given the financial pressures caused
by COVID-19 and the inability of Covid-19-battered residents to shoulder a tax increase.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to afford to do this (bolster bylaw enforcement) in a cost-effective way,” she said.
Unsightly items that contravene the bylaw include inoperable motor vehicles and trailers with no plates, strewn garbage and discarded bulk items, dead trees and grass higher than 12 inches.
Bylaw enforcement is probably one of the biggest problems in the city, said Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin.
“We will have to put our money where our mouths are to get more officers on the road.”
City clerk Valerie Critchley said that on a per-capita basis, Windsor
“by far” receives the highest number of complaints compared with other Canadian municipalities. Normally, the city has a backlog of around 300 outstanding complaints, but due to shutdowns during COVID-19, that number has ballooned to 970.
Last year, the division fielded 13,926 complaints with each officer receiving 53.4 new calls per working day.
Gignac argued that a proactive blitz one day per month would result in officers finding many problems before people complain about them, and educating people about bylaws they didn’t even know existed.
She said she’s not saying the city should switch entirely to proactive enforcement.
“What I am suggesting is that one day a month, each of the bylaw enforcement officers ... do a swing through each of the wards noting each of the violations. We would see a great reduction in the number of calls.”
But Gary Cian, the city’s senior manager of bylaw enforcement, said that given the big caseload of complaints, “we believe it would be inefficient to take bylaw enforcement officers off those cases and have them drive around the city looking for violations.”
He said the goal is to respond to complaints within 48 hours but sometimes the wait is more than a week.
“We’re making the most efficient use of our staff,” he said.
I don’t think we’re going to be able to afford to do this (bolster bylaw enforcement) in a cost-effective way.