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One dozen transient camps already removed as city battles ongoing issue

The city's bylaw services and the RCMP have removed one dozen individual transient campsites so far this year in Grand Forks. Creative Commons photo

‘Tis the season to remove transient camps.

The city’s bylaw services and the RCMP have removed one dozen individual transient campsites so far this year in Grand Forks, as well as clearing one dozen more potential transient campsites of construction material.

According to a bylaw services report to city council last week, spring and warmer weather brings the transient camps and with it comes an ongoing issue for the city.

The issue concerned Coun. Julia Butler and she asked for some more information on where “these individuals might be setting up now that their camps have been taken down.”

At this time of the year, most of the bylaw officer’s time is taken up trying to get the transients and their camps removed, said city interim chief administrative officer Diane Heinrich. 

“We don’t know exactly where they go (after),” she said. “I think they go and find another spot to go. It’s like a continuing transition to try and get them moved. 

It’s one of the ongoing, annual issues that city managers are endeavouring to solve. The city is considering options for mid and long term solutions to the transient problem, said Heinrich, but nothing has surfaced as a viable solution.

Butler asked how the city was working in collaboration with RCMP on removing the camps.

“Or is it just the city that is moving them?” she asked.

“I believe when it comes to dealing with anything with criminal behaviour that the bylaw enforcement officer would get into contact with the RCMP,” said Heinrich.

It would become a safety issue as far as city staff was concerned and bylaw would not remove the camps on its own as a result.

“They know where the line is as to where they can safely transition the persons out of the area,” Heinrich added.

A transient camp is described as an illegal temporary residence for those people who are moving through the area, or have just moved to the area and have planned an extended stay.

Coun. Beverley Tripp said the occurrence of transient camps does seem to be a bit of an issue to many of the people in the community, and one with many facets. She said she was contacted by a resident who was complaining about garbage left behind by the transients.

“It’s just an ongoing issue and if some businesses or non profits are willing to help in their area (to clean up) it certainly takes the load off the city and the RCMP as well,” said Tripp.

Other Kootenay-Boundary cities such as Nelson also struggle with transient camps in the more forested, outer edges of the city, and have to annually remove the camps with the help of the RCMP.

Construction gets started in the city

According to the city’s building inspection department review, a total of eight building permit applications have been received in February, making it a total now of 22 for the year.

As well, the 2017 construction values (building permits) now sit at $1,484,285, down from the 2016 total of $2,536,774.

Currently in the city right now there are eight new residences — three are modular — and five new commercial renovations under development.