Barrie’s by-law department seeking more staff to keep pace with demand

No increase in permanent staff since 2003 despite calls for service up by 25,000 in that time frame

In this era of doing more with less, the City of Barrie’s municipal law enforcement department might easily take top prize.

In a presentation to general committee on Monday evening, Tammy Banting, manager of enforcement services, told councillors that staffing has not kept pace with the demand for service.

” We have not increased our permanent staff compliment since 2003,” Banting told council. “But we do know our calls for service have gone up over 25,000 in that time frame.”

Putting it another way, the presentation revealed that while Barrie’s population has climbed 29 per cent in 2003, there has been a 54 per cent increase in by-law enforcement calls.

Over a five-month period in 2020, by-law enforcement has fielded an additional 11,000 calls related to COVID-19, which has required a redeployment of staff and an increase in service levels to allow for 7-day coverage.

Banting pointed out in her presentation that uniformed staff patrol seven days a week between 7:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., April to November, and 24 hour a day during the December to March period because of winter enforcement.

There were just over 68,000 enforcement matters and nearly 3,700 licence/permit administrative matters processed last year, not including warnings or phone inquiries.

Councillor Barry Ward was given reassurance by staff that any additional hires would not strictly be used to hand out parking tickets downtown and would focus on general service calls.

“You know, I am trying to imagine police, fire and ambulance not increasing their compliment in 17 years, ” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “despite 25,000 additional calls for service. Obviously standards would have to change in terms of responsiveness.”

Council general committee agreed to support a staff recommendation to consider as part of the 2021 budget to hire an additional full time municipal law enforcement officer to maintain the current level of service, and hire another two municipal law enforcement officer positions as part of the 2022 budget.

As well, staff was asked to continue to review resourcing demands from growth, call volumes, technology and regulatory changes, and to include intake forms in future years to allow for current levels of service to be maintained and proactive enforcement to be enhanced.

By-law enforcement officers would also be taken away from dealing with boundary fence disputes.

Prior to general committee’s decision, Banting had explained that if all officers are in place by mid-2022, it should be a gain of approximately 25 per cent proactive enforcement, allow for new officers to possibly assist with yard maintenance matters, and create a full rotational schedule to ensure coverage 7 days a week for most enforcement matters.

A staff report said three new hires and two additional vehicles would add $318,000 in costs.

General committee’s decision must still be ratified at next week’s city council meeting.