Mission mayor says mistakes were made

Mayor James Atebe was on the defensive at public hearing Monday as Mission residents questioned the findings of the Public Safety Inspection Team (PSIT) property file review.

Under scrutiny were 70 homeowners who were levied fees but did not pay.

The $115,000 review, which included $78,000 in fee reversals, found there was insufficient evidence to prove that 15 of those homeowners previously fined met the “evidentiary test identified” under the Controlled Substance Bylaw to be marijuana grow operations.

Rick Goos, one of the 15 who had his $5,200 fee overturned, said the violation of his individual rights for the interest of public safety wasn’t justified.

He asked the mayor how many grow-op related fires there were in Mission last year. When Atebe said he didn’t know, Goos then asked how many fires were started by Christmas lights.

“So my question to council, is Christmas next?”

Another resident whose property has been declared a controlled substance property said, “I don’t feel like I’ve had my day in court. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to offer witnesses and evidence to defend myself in this matter.”

Atebe acknowledged mistakes have been made, both apologizing to homeowners and asking district staff to draft a letter to homeowners explaining the need for PSIT and an apology. He also said he would write an open letter to the community personally.

Coun. Jenny Stevens’ motion to review the criteria used to investigate properties suspected of being grow-ops passed unanimously, adding an apology to the innocent “is a debt we’ve owed for five months.”

She said the 15 properties whose fees were reversed received individual communication, and it’s only fair similar action would be taken for the rest.

“We’ve never publicly exonerated them,” she said.

But Coun. Mike Scudder said just because PSIT did not designate a home a controlled substance property “does not mean there was a total absence of any kind or innocence was established.”

He added one of the false rumours being spread is that residences were inspected without any evidence.

Coun. Paul Horn said a review of the criteria and an apology are in keeping with previous council recognition that people need to maintain their dignity throughout the process.

He said a PSIT probe should have been done after the first year, but Mission will continue to strive for a balance in community safety issues.

“Houses that house growops instead of families are not building our community,” he said.

The PSIT review head, deputy chief administrative officers Paul Gipps, said the district has to communicate better with the public, adding they have to be more accurate in their ability to predict potential grow-ops. One of the key issues identified in the March report was a need to have a communications specialist with PSIT when they visit homes.

There were 499 properties inspected as possible grow-ops between April 2008 when PSIT began and the end of 2010 when the program was put on indefinite deferral, with 216 homes (43 per cent) found not to be a “controlled substance property.”

At the program’s inception, the district expected 85 per cent of properties would be assessed fees, which would cover the operating costs. But only 71 per cent of properties were levied fees in 2008; 61 per cent in 2009, and just 49 per cent in 2010.

Mission was charging $4,900 for the inspection with a $300 administration fee, and $250 for additional remediation inspections.

The report also looked at fees in surrounding municipalities. Abbotsford, which charges $3,500 with a $1,000 followup and $1,000 refundable security deposit, is currently under review. Langley charges between $5,000 and $7,000; Chilliwack charges up to $3,650 including re-inspection; Surrey is $3,600; and Port Coquitlam charges $6,500.

The bylaw triggering a PSIT inspection is based on electricity consumption of 93 kilowatt hours per day — three times the normal usage — in 70 per cent of the cases. RCMP investigations account for the remainder.

District staff will now explore the possibility of reviewing the 187 cases in which homeowners paid fees, and prepare a report to council for July.

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

(file)
Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Most Read