Alberni wants more bylaw enforcement, but taxpayers don’t want to pay

Public speaks out on city spending during e-Town Hall meeting

RCMP and bylaw services were two of the most discussed items at a recent Town Hall meeting of Port Alberni city council.

Alberni residents brought forward a number of questions and concerns during the Monday, Jan. 29 special budget meeting.

Youth Liaison Officer

Alberni District Secondary School students returned to council to repeat their ask for a dedicated Youth Liaison Officer for Alberni Valley schools. They stressed that the relationship between officer and student is invaluable.

“They need support, not an officer going through a checklist,” said Social Justice 12 student Maddie O’Neil-Johns.

Two weeks ago, she added, two students were led away from the school in handcuffs while their peers watched.

Councillor Denis Sauvé pointed out that it is difficult for Inspector Brian Hunter to assign a full-time officer to the school with the rate of calls that the Port Alberni detachment faces.

“His priority is the safety of the community,” he said. “He will pull from all resources to do that.”

Hunter confirmed that the RCMP are not intentionally leaving positions vacant, as most vacancies result from paternal leave, maternity leave and injury. He cannot transfer officers in on a temporary vacancy.

“I don’t like redeploying officers,” he said. “We all agree that a Youth Liaison Officer is an amazing resource in our community. But we need him over here.”

Echo Pool

Resident Rebecca Standley wanted to know where the city is in terms of a new pool.

Parks, Recreation and Heritage director Willa Thorpe confirmed that the city and the ACRD have met regarding this matter, and the ball is currently in the regional district’s court to respond.

“I’m hesitant to put dates in front of the ACRD,” she said.

She added that the pool has surpassed its life expectancy, and although it is functioning well right now, she does not know how much longer it will last.

But an aquatic centre, she said, is an expensive ask.

Councillor Ron Paulson agreed that the project will not be done at all unless it includes the ACRD. “It can’t all be on the city taxpayers,” he said.

Clock Tower

Resident Roland Smith wanted to know the status of the aging clock tower at Harbour Quay.

City CAO Tim Pley confirmed that the city is currently working with Tseshaht First Nation to come up with a design for the tower. The city already has the money in hand for a project.

“Because of those discussions, this project has not moved forward yet,” he said.

Facilities supervisor Mark Zenko said that that structure of the tower is sound. “It does need a facelift, though,” he said.

Bylaw Enforcement

The city has proposed the creation of a “Bylaw Services Department” that will include a manager of bylaw services, an additional bylaw enforcement officer, an administrative assistant and a new vehicle.

The cost, altogether, is estimated at $223,021 from general revenue.

A few residents spoke in opposition to this change, arguing that the department is not needed and it would cost too much.

Kevin Wright, representing the Uptown Merchants, said he was in favour of the move. He pointed out that there are a number of derelict buildings in the uptown area that could create liability issues if left alone too long.

“The money we could be seeing in the future could be in the millions if they’re not addressed,” he said. “We need to have a proactive model. Those are concerns we have to look at long term.”

Pley compared the city’s reaction to bylaw infractions to a game of “whack-a-mole,” in that another just pops up to take its place.

“We’ve been reactive, largely because we don’t have the resources to be proactive,” he said. “This is what it takes.”

Council will consider whether or not to provide early budget approval for this department in the next budget meeting. The next scheduled meeting is for Thursday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. Council will review and consider items on the Projects Options List.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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