Thursday, 15 March 2018 08:55

Rural municipalities create new community safety officer program

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R.M. of Swift Current Division 5 Councillor Ken Doerksen speaks during the open house, March 7. Special Const. Les Ferris is standing at the back and R.M. of Swift Current Reeve Bob Neufeld is seated at the table. R.M. of Swift Current Division 5 Councillor Ken Doerksen speaks during the open house, March 7. Special Const. Les Ferris is standing at the back and R.M. of Swift Current Reeve Bob Neufeld is seated at the table.

Three rural municipalities in the Swift Current area formed a partnership to hire a regional community safety officer.

 


The rural municipalities of Swift Current, Saskatchewan Landing and Webb established the Prairie Sky Regional Community Safety Officer Program.
Area residents had an opportunity to learn more about the new program and to meet the community safety officer, Special Const. Les Ferris, at an open house in Swift Current, March 7.
R.M. of Swift Current Division 5 Councillor Ken Doerksen is the chairperson of the community safety officer committee that was established by the three rural municipalities.
“Basically what we have started is not new in Saskatchewan or even in Alberta,” he said. “Community safety officers are being employed at all levels of local governments. They might have different titles in different jurisdictions in different provinces, but in Saskatchewan there are several programs on the go.”
The three rural municipalities have been working on this initiative for about eight months. A few other rural municipalities took part in preliminary discussions, but these three decided to proceed with the program.
“We all have similar concerns about our municipalities,” he said. “The main concern and why we’ve gone this route with enforcement is road maintenance and the integrity of the roads. Every R.M. spends a lot of money on road maintenance between graders and gravel. The three R.M.’s that are participating in this program have already introduced reduced speed limits for heavy vehicles. It’s our understanding from different research and so on, not our research, but from different programs, that excessive speed and excessive weight creates excessive wear and tear on the roads.”
The three municipalities are not able to enforce the speed and weight requirements on their own, and the RCMP do not have sufficient resources to do it.
“It’s difficult for them to have any sort of presence outside of the main arteries,” he noted. “So it’s a matter of us trying to maintain the integrity of our roads, because the cost of maintaining it is the biggest thing. It was time for us to put some mechanisms in place so we could manage and hopefully save some wear and tear on our infrastructure.”
The appointment of the community safety officer takes place under the jurisdiction of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, which will enable him to enforce a variety of acts.
“The other benefits of the CSO program are going to be the ability for Les to help enforce various bylaws,” Doerksen said. “Every R.M. has different bylaws, but sometimes enforcement can be rather difficult, for lack of a better word. So this way we have a mechanism in place.”
The three rural municipalities will share the cost of the Prairie Sky Regional Community Safety Officer Program.
“Between different parts of the program, like the permitting as well as enforcement, we are hoping to generate a portion of the expenses,” he said. “It’s not just the salary. There’s quite a few other expenses too. I don’t know if we’ll get to a point of being self-sustaining that way. I guess time will tell.”
Ferris has been appointed initially for a period of five years. He will be travelling in a clearly marked truck while he is on duty. He will be responsible for an area of over 3,000 square kilometres.
“I think the biggest challenge is just communicating to the general public what the laws and regulations are that have been in place for a number of years,” he said. “The enforcement has been lacking in the region and that’s why the municipality is taking this program on. So I think just the education is going to be the biggest challenge first off.”
He has a lot of relevant experience for the position. He grew up north of Brooks, Alberta, and joined the military after high school. He spent a few years in the infantry and took part in various peacekeeping missions.
“I pride myself on carrying forward the work ethic and discipline that I gained in the military,” he said.
After leaving the military he spent almost 20 years in the trucking industry, of which 16 years were on the road.
“So when it comes down to weight enforcement and large vehicle enforcement of all sorts and transportation of dangerous goods and what not, I have a very good working knowledge,” he said.
He then worked as a commercial vehicle enforcement officer in Saskatchewan, and he was stationed in Estevan. His most recent job was as a community safety officer for the R.M of Edenwold.
The implementation of the regional community safety officer program in the three municipalities will include a permit system for commercial vehicles that will exceed the secondary weights limits for municipal roads. The cost of a permit is $375 for a 12-month period.
“Permits are plate specific,” he noted. “So if you got 10 trucks, one permit isn’t going to cover your fleet of 10 trucks. It’s going to be good for one truck, one plate.”
There will be single trip permits available. Agricultural producers in the three municipalities also have to obtain permits for farm vehicles, but the permit fee will be waived.
“You still have to contact the R.M.,” he said. “We need all the information on the vehicles that you’re going to put stickers on. We will give you the sticker free of charge. … The weights and everything else still have to be complied with.”
The intention is to implement the permit system by April 1, and there will also be a website for the Prairie Sky Regional Community Safety Officer Program with relevant information and downloadable permit application forms. There will be a form available on the website for residents to use to report overweight trucks.
“Everything that comes in on those reports is confidential,” he emphasized. “That information will be put to use. So you can take it upon yourself to assist the program.”
For more information about the community safety officer program, call the R.M. of Swift Current at 306-773-7314.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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