Hamilton politicians agreed to make permanent a pilot project that had two Mohawk co-op students patrolling McMaster University neighbourhoods to enforce yard maintenance. – By Kevin Werner, HCN
Hamilton city council has made permanent a pilot project that paid Mohawk co-op students to patrol the neighbourhoods around McMaster to enforce property maintenance rules.
The idea had been in place this year after Ward 1 Coun. Aidan Johnson suggested in December 2016 to hire two students to conduct limited bylaw yard enforcement on properties that surround the university.
He argued at the time homeowners had been complaining about litter, lawns not being cut, and late-night noise throughout the neighbourhoods of Ainslie Wood and Westdale. Hamilton councillors had refused earlier to hire a bylaw officer to patrol the area because of the cost.
Since the students were hired, co-ordinator bylaw enforcement co-ordinator Kelly Barnett said 736 orders had been issued. She said the cost of the program was about $49,000, which is covered by the fines and fees from the enforcement.
There is a $271 first-time fee for service, which is applied to the property owner’s tax bill. The fee is $160 for each subsequent violation.
The students are paid about $18 an hour, while a standard full-time bylaw officer is paid about $35 an hour.
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge opposed the idea, arguing the program uses students to go after students.
Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green, who has criticized city policies that impact students, said the program could prompt a legal issue from McMaster University students.
“I see problems with this legally,” said Green. “I would anticipate a legal challenge. My concern is clearly (the city) is targeting students.”
However, Stoney Creek Coun. Maria Pearson said the program is targeting properties in a certain neighbourhood. She said the students don’t know if the property is a rental or not. Fines are issues against property owners and not students, said Barnett.
There has been criticism of how the city handled the recent homecoming party that had students crowding onto Dalewood Avenue, with some partygoers urinating on buildings and littering the neighbourhood with beer cans.
Bylaw enforcement staff will report back to councillors on the program later this year.