The phone at the municipal bylaw office rings with regularity, but Medea Mills, Sooke’s senior bylaw officer, says the town is full of “awesome people” and her job never manages to shake her belief in the good in the human race.
“Sure, sometimes we will come into contact with people who are angry and sometimes they just want to use us as a sounding board, but that’s all part of the gig,” Mills said.
“There are times when people might want to argue about the validity of a particular bylaw, but when they find that we’re just looking to find a resolution to a situation, they tend to calm down pretty quickly. A lot of times they have no idea why we’ve arrived at their door.”
Most of those calls are generated by neighbours who have developed an issue with someone living nearby and are looking for a resource and sometimes some advice on how to deal with a situation.
Often those calls are the result of people just letting their property become a bit of a dumping ground with unlicensed cars, auto parts, and a variety of miscellaneous trash accumulated on the property.
Mills said these can be judgment calls and if she can convince the owner to dispose of some of the trash and organize the rest, the situation is often resolved without difficulty.
Other calls are the result of long-simmering disputes between neighbour in which there is an attempt to use the bylaw office to further a particular side of a feud between neighbours.
“We don’t get involved in civil disputes. People really need to find a way to resolve their own differences. But if a bylaw is being broken we can take some action to resolve the situation,” said Mills.
And although Mills said disputes can become impassioned, her approach has proven itself to be effective.
“We get hundreds of calls every year, but by working with people we can resolve most every situation. Last year we issued a total of four bylaw tickets,” Mills said.
With about 700 bylaws on the books, Mills is called upon to address situations that include parking issues, burning, garbage, business operations and more.
“We don’t go trolling for bylaw infractions. with the number of calls we get, we’re busy enough just following up on complaints.”
Mills is the senior member of a two-officer team which means that she is commonly required to make calls on bylaw offenders by herself.
“I’m not really concerned. We are in radio contact and will call in the RCMP if things get out of hand, but I haven’t had to do that for a very long time.”
She admits that her job experience prior to taking the bylaw officer job might be a contributing factor in her no-nonsense, fearless approach.
“Before I took this job I was a commissionaire and before that, I was a correctional officer at a male maximum security prison,” she said with a smile.
“I can handle bylaw offences without too much trouble.”