Comox’s new bylaw officer has a message for residents of the town: Keep up the good work.
“I think the people of Comox have been very diligent,” said Ted Usher, who started as the town’s bylaw officer in February. “The town residents should be very proud of the way they have been handling things. From everything I have seen, I think everybody has been really, really good.”
Usher’s duties are unlike any he was used to as a bylaw officer in Port Coquitlam. COVID-19 made sure of that.
“All the bylaw officers in the province were sort of given… a bit of a responsibility through the provincial health officer, to monitor our community, and that’s what my responsibility is,” he said. “We have no enforcement powers with regards to any provincial health orders, but we have an educational responsibility, to inform people what the rules and recommendations are during this time.
“I’m kind of like the physical distancing police officer for the town. It’s also my duty to make sure all the businesses that are supposed to be closed are closed, and those that are open are following the recommendations. So that’s been my main responsibility to the community, along with the other bylaw responsibilities.”
Usher said he has received a few COVID-19 related complaints from citizens, but the phones have been fairly quiet.
“I do get the odd call; for instance, when the food trucks appeared at the marina last week, there were a couple of people that called in to complain about the social distancing, saying people were standing around too close. But in fact, they weren’t.
“There was also some concern about the Comox Golf Course re-opening. So I went there Friday (April 24) and spoke to the pro shop manager, determined why it re-opened, what protocols were in place to prevent the spread of the virus. We went through a series of checks and balances and we agreed everything was fine.”
There was also an incident with people playing at the tennis courts, as well as some activity at the pickleball courts, but Usher said those are the exception.
“There really have been very few incidents reported or observed by me.”
As part of the COVID-19 protocol, Usher submits a regular report to the Comox Valley Emergency Operations Centre, informing the EOC of his observations within the town. He also receives emails from the EOC, as well as the regional health authority in Nanaimo, about any changes in COVID-19 protocol.
“So the communication that’s happening between us, in bylaw enforcement, and the health people, has been very, very good.”
Usher started as the town’s new bylaw officer in February, three days after long-time Comox bylaw officer Bill Smith retired. Smith stayed on as a casual employee for a couple of weeks, to bridge the gap, and mentor Usher.
“I enjoyed working with him,” said Usher. “We found we have much in common. He served the community with honour.”
Usher moved to the Comox Valley last June, after retiring from the building department for the City of Port Coquitlam.
“I retired from the City of Port Coquitlam on June 19 and we moved here June 22,” he said. “We came here to retire.”
His retirement lasted less than eight months.
“When this job became available, I was kind of looking for part-time work, because my wife still works full-time, and I’ve kind of finished the [home] renovations, so when this job was posted a friend of mine called me and said ‘this has your name written all over it.’ Sure enough, of all the applicants they had, they hired me, so it was kind of a proud moment, to be accepted and to be given the opportunity to serve the town of Comox.”
Usher said, for the most part, he is learning ‘on the fly’ about his new milieu. He’s discovered that being a bylaw officer in a town the size of Comox is significantly different than in a city in the Lower Mainland.
“I have learned very quickly that this is a small town, and people will complain about some things that you wouldn’t even think about complaining about in a larger community… barking dogs, dogs off-leash, branches hanging over a neighbour’s fence – I get those calls a lot. In the big city, chances are you wouldn’t be able to entertain such calls because there are just bigger issues.”