Petrolia looks for friendlier bylaw enforcement

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Petrolia is looking to be one of the friendliest towns around even when it comes to bylaw enforcement.

Town council recently ended its contract for bylaw enforcement with MEU. The Sarnia company started working for the town in 2001 and its specially trained municipal law enforcement officers routinely enforced local bylaws.

But recently the town released MEU from its contract and at the time Mayor John McCharles said the town would consider a different way of bylaw enforcement.

Now, town officials are looking for a full-time contract employee to handle bylaw enforcement according to CAO Manny Baron.

“It is essentially almost the same terms and conditions as before but friendly,” he told The Independent. “We want a less heavy-hand approach, a more friendly approach.”

McCharles agrees. “The approach is to be more proactive than reactive,” he says. “We would prefer not to be handing out tickets and fines to people, more of a ‘let’s educate the people’ approach.

“A little old lady parks a foot-and-a-half from the curb, she doesn’t deserve a ticket…maybe if the bylaw officer saw that they would speak to her…more of a communications thing …to operate on a more friendly basis.”

McCharles adds with property standards concerns the “bylaw officer would be more of a facilitator.

We want people to come to town and enjoy being here…we want more of a friendly town to accommodate people and help people instead of being the heavy-footed enforcement.”

McCharles admits the “friendly approach” won’t work in every case, but he says then the new contract employee will work with the County of Lambton, which also provides bylaw enforcement for the town, to deal with the issue.

Baron says the new employee will be classified as a full-time contract employee. He says the current $17,000 set aside for bylaw enforcement in the 2014 budget will cover the cost.

He adds the new approach may save money if fewer tickets are issued and fewer people head to court to try to fight town hall.

“One of the major cost when you hand out a ticket is if someone fights it there are court costs involved,” he says. “That cost alone will be saved.”

The town will review applications for the job after Aug. 1.