Penticton will be taking a second look at the mayor’s ongoing call for more bylaw officers.
Council voted unanimously to direct city staff to look into the costs around expanding bylaw services with additional officers and hours.
“Our citizens, our taxpayers are living in fear in our community,” said Mayor John Vassilaki. “It’s impossible for them, when it gets dark, to leave their home. It’s impossible when they’re having problems on their properties for them to get RCMP to respond because we don’t have enough officers.”
The additional bylaw officers would be intended for responding to those kinds of calls, according to the mayor, so that the RCMP could respond to other, more important calls.
Vassilaki’s notice of motion will have the city look at how many additional officers would be needed to expand service to seven days a week, and add an extra four hours to serve from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., instead of 7 p.m.
The city currently maintains 13 staff in bylaw services, made up of six bylaw officers, five relief officers, a supervisor and an intake clerk.
In October 2020, as part of the budget deliberations, council voted down the mayor’s request at the time for two additional bylaw officers and an extension for bylaw’s hours to provide seven-day-a-week coverage and staffing until 2 a.m.
Coun. Campbell Watt was the only member of council to vote in support of the motion with the mayor at that time, something which Coun. Katie Robinson brought up in March 1’s meeting.
“We dealt with this back during budget time, and it was turned down,” said Robinson. “I understand only too well how badly this city needs the help, but I question whether bylaw is the correct agency.”
Robinson pointed to the overworked RCMP officers, and called on addressing that problem instead of using bylaw as a bandage.
“We’ve been put into the position we’re in as councillors, to protect the citizens. We can’t stand still and let things get worse and worse every day. We’re the only ones that can do it,” said Vassilaki as his rebuttal to Robinson’s comments.
In October, the city estimated that would require four additional bylaw officers instead of two, for a cost of $340,000 a year.
The mayor’s most recent request does not have an attached number of officers to it, nor an explicit means through which those additional officers would be paid for.
At the same time as the mayor’s first request was voted down in October, council also approved budgeting and requesting for two additional RCMP officers.
Staff will bring back the report at a later date with the costs, as well as whether bylaw officers are even capable of responding to the calls that the mayor would want them to.
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