Vernon council taking another look at recommendations from task force on downtown safety - InfoNews

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Vernon council taking another look at recommendations from task force on downtown safety

June 11, 2019 - 3:33 PM

VERNON - Hoping for better luck a second time around, Vernon city council is set to explore the recommendations proposed by the Activate Safety Task Force in 2018.

Coun. Kari Gares put forward a motion at council's meeting yesterday, June 10, to bring the report back to council for further discussion.

"I think public opinion, that I have been gathering on social media, is that we should be bringing it forward and we should looking at it," Gares said. "I haven't physically had an opportunity to debate any of those recommendations because I wasn't part of council then."

The Activate Safety Task Force was formed in response to anti-social behaviour taking place in the city's downtown core and it presented over 40 recommendations to council in July 2018.

While a proposed shopping cart ban made media headlines, and two new needle drop boxes appeared on the city's streets, the report contained a variety of recommendations which were never passed, are still being worked on or council decided already existed.

With a new council, Gares believes the report is worth looking at again.

"You spend the money on these reports it doesn't mean you take one glance at it and toss it aside, sometimes these are working reports, maybe there are ideas that can come out of it to modify what we are now seeing today," Gares said.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal welcomed bringing the report back to council saying originally the recommendations had been "glazed through."

"I propose to look at hiring a private contractor, so if a business owner comes to work and there's feces or needles or garbage he can call the hotline and have it picked up within 30 minutes," Nahal said.

While Gares didn't agree the recommendations were glazed over she said the recommendations were fluid and the situation changed over time.

Gares said the recommendation to install vandal proof public toilets was passed, but the Portland Loo — a $140,000 public toilet highly resistant to vandalism — was now back ordered for nine months. Re-visiting the report would allow council to find an interim solution to fill the gap.

Both councillors agreed they were not in favour of exploring the shopping cart ban again.

While Coun. Scott Anderson didn't believe the shopping cart ban would pass through council, he still favoured the bylaw.

"The road that we're going down is trying to make life easier living that lifestyle, and we should be trying to make it harder," Anderson said.

Anderson gave a notice of motion he plans to introduce a new anti-loitering bylaw. He said the proposed bylaw would deal with chronic panhandling and loitering in Vernon.

When asked whether the bylaw would be similar to Penticton's controversial bylaw banning people from sitting on the sidewalk, Anderson said he didn't think the bylaw needed to be as hardline.

"I don't think we have the same problem as Penticton does, we don't have a rash of people sitting on the sidewalk," he said.

Anderson said the city had a good neighbours bylaw which he'd like to see have "a bit more teeth" and be enforced. He wasn't sure whether a new bylaw was needed or whether bylaw officers should just step-up enforcement and that his motion would address this issue.

He also favoured hiring private security and agreed with Nahal.

"The (recommendations) that I think would have made a difference were sloughed off as the status quo," he said.

Anderson said a recommendation for regular bike patrols by bylaw officers didn't happen even after council were told bylaw officers had bicycles.

He hoped the current council would look at the recommendations from the report differently.

"It's not either we have empathy and caring or we crack down on it... that a false dichotomy that was set up by the last council and I think there's a happy medium where you can do both," he said.

"We have to do something about the problems that exist in this town and take strong measures and at the same time... help the population that's causing these problems."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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