Coun­cil shoots down by­law en­force­ment blitz, calls for more costly fix

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - BRIAN CROSS

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.

Jo-anne Gignac

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