Fernie City Council held a Special Meeting of Council on May 31 in regards to the student bylaw enforcement officers. A staff report was given by City of Fernie Chief Administrative Officer, Jim Hendricks.
In March, the City announced a budget of $23,000 to hire two summer students to help with bylaw enforcement and education. The City had hoped to partially fund the two new positions through a grant from the federal government, however, the grant funding was not approved. The grant funding accounted for $7,667 of the budget.
Despite the lack of grant funding, Council directed staff to go ahead with the hiring of two students at a cost of approximately $13,000, coming in $2,000 under budget, for the summer months. The program will still be within budget, as the students will begin working in mid-June, cutting down their employment from four months to three.
After the report was given, Council discussed the specifics of the role for the two student officers and whether they would be allowed to enforce the city’s bylaws with tickets or only be able to give warnings.
From previous discussions, Hendricks said he was under the impression the role of the student officers was to be a presence in the public, offering education on the city’s bylaws and policies. After an in-depth discussion, Council altered the role, allowing for the officers to take on an enforcement role.
Councillor Ange Qualizza started the discussion by asking Council and staff for clarification on the job description and if it was previously discussed.
“I’m not sure about how we feel about the hiring of two positions, which we have tag teamed for safety purposes. Bylaw is something that is consistently coming back to us as something that is an issue,” she said. “I’m not sure we want to have under our employment two bylaw officers for the summer that are only giving verbal warnings.”
Mayor Mary Giuliano answered by saying they had discussed the issue and decided the students would only be allowed to give warnings and provide education.
Hendricks addressed Council about enabling student bylaw officers to give tickets, citing safety as his main concern.
“If you want me to tell them to give tickets, I will. I’m not at all comfortable with that, but it is really Council’s decision,” he said.
The discussion debated whether student officers would have enough experience and training to confidently give tickets in a safe and respectful manner. Councillor Iddon spoke in favour of allowing the students to award tickets, as the two will be working together for safety purposes and for getting “bang for the dollar.”
“They need to know if they are cut out for the business too,” he said. “If we are going to have a buddy system, I think they should quite easily be able to manage giving tickets that are quite trivial in nature compared to what they are going to encounter in the real world.”
Councillor Qualizza made a motion enabling the student bylaw officers to award fines for infractions, not only warnings.
“I would like to make a motion that the students we are hiring as bylaw officers are actually acting in the full authority of a bylaw officer, which means for dogs, they ticket. They have the ability and opportunity to issue a ticket for all other infractions. If they need to issue a ticket, they can and have the authority,” she said.
The motion sparked more discussion and clarification. Mayor Giuliano asked for clarification on the term “full authority”.
“These are two students, they should not have the full authority of a bylaw officer. I agree that they should be able to ticket, but putting in the words ‘full authority’, what does that mean exactly?” asked Giuliano.
After the 25-minute discussion, Council voted in favour of going ahead with the hiring of two students and for them to have the authority to issue tickets. The student officers are to begin their work term in June.