By Trevor Busch
The Taber Region has taken another significant stride forward in community standards enforcement as the Village of Barnwell has officially joined the Regional Community Standards Unit partnership.
The expansion marks a collaborative effort among the Municipal District of Taber, Town of Taber, Taber Police Service, and now the Village of Barnwell to provide effective community standards enforcement between the three municipalities.
“Overall, I think this is a huge milestone for Taber in a four way collaboration effort, it’s now in place and the first of its kind within the province of Alberta. So we’re very excited about that, very thrilled to be part of that,” said Taber Mayor Andrew Prokop following the announcement on Aug. 18. “And we look forward to great successes in the future as well, with all four parties’ involvement.”
Following the successful establishment of the Taber Police Regional Community Standards Unit (CSU) in 2022, the Village of Barnwell recognized the value of enhanced law enforcement services and sought conversations on taking part in the CSU. Building upon the success of this initiative, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services granted approval for the expansion earlier this year. The dedicated Regional Community Standards Officer commenced patrols within the Village on August 15.
“It’s good to be able to partner with the Town on the community standards unit and the services they provide to the municipality, they do our bylaw enforcement for us,” said MD of Taber Reeve Merrill Harris. “They work inside our hamlets for public safety, especially school zones, they’re there to control and make sure that everyone’s obeying the law in those important areas and the hamlets. Some of the minor things that they do, it’s necessary if a pivot is over spraying on roads, stray dogs, we work with Lost Paws, as well as with the Town on taking care of stray dogs and dogs that are at large. And it’s been working well, so far. We’re doing well. We’re just barely not quite a year into it. But it’s doing well, they’re providing the services that we wanted them to provide for us.”
The strategic partnership brings together the collective resources, expertise, and coordinated efforts of these entities to effectively address community standards violations. The CSU will play a vital role in enforcing Village bylaws and provincial legislation, with a focus on proactive patrols within Barnwell.
Although the partnership represents a revenue component for the Taber Police Service and the municipality, Prokop said this wasn’t the focus of the arrangement.
“Revenue is always great for any municipality, but that’s not the focus. I guess that’s a bonus piece to this, but it’s certainly not the focus, it’s more important that the bulk of the enforcement requirements that need to be done on a more regular basis is now in place for that purpose.”
This partnership complements the existing services provided by the RCMP to the Village, and the Taber Police Service maintains close collaboration with their RCMP counterparts.
“The RCMP is still the police that have jurisdiction in this capacity,” said Harris. “But they don’t do bylaw enforcement and that sort of stuff that we have partnered with the Town to provide for us. So if there’s an emergency, it’s still the RCMP that they should be calling. And it’s the bylaw and the other sort of things that the community standards unit does for us that the RCMP does. So it’s a good partnership so far, and I’m sure it will be into the future. And it’s unique and it’s working and we’re appreciative of the Town being willing to partner with us to provide those services.”
For the past year, the Taber Police Service has successfully operated the Regional Community Standards Unit within the Municipal District of Taber, as announced in October 2022. According to the Town, the unified approach fosters a stronger sense of community, shared responsibility, and a proactive stance on resolving issues affecting the region’s residents.
“We have worked closely with municipal administrations and the RCMP to provide these enhanced law enforcement services and we could not be more proud of our efforts,” said TPS Chief Graham Abela in a statement. “Policing is a continuum of services, and the Taber Police Regional Community Standards Program supports the RCMP, who are the police of jurisdiction in the MD of Taber and Barnwell with community standards work. This cost effective and professional service delivery model enhances public safety and community wellness and provides the RCMP with valuable time to focus on more serious criminal matters. We are proud to be the first police service in Alberta to deploy this innovative model and look forward to working with both municipalities in the years to come.”
The Regional Community Standards Unit’s sustained and active engagement within each community is anticipated to significantly contribute to fostering safer, more harmonious, and enriched living environments for all residents across the Taber region.
“I think first and foremost would be some support for our bylaws,” said Barnwell Mayor Missy Foster. “We’ve had bylaws, but we haven’t had any enforcement for a couple of years, because we’ve been without bylaw enforcement. So this will help us with our bylaws, and it’s a small place and things are pretty tidy, and pretty well kept. But there that will help us definitely with some of our maintenance, and mostly traffic. And because we’re a little place, often you don’t see a lot of the RCMP coming through. Sometimes people get a little casual. So hopefully, we’ll keep our kids a little bit more safe and our drivers a little bit more cognizant of what they’re doing.”
Foster commented that it is good for a municipality to pass necessary bylaws, but if there is no enforcement there is little incentive to actually follow the bylaw.
“The last couple years, if we had a bylaw infraction we could write up a citation but we didn’t really have a good way to enforce it. So now we can have anything that’s provincial or municipal, enforced by our community standards units. So they can do that. And if it’s somebody in a uniform and someone with some authority, that might mean more than if our public works foreman says, ‘Hey, you know, you need to take care of your weeds,’ or ‘Hey, you need to strap on your bike helmet’.”