It’s a Monday, a few minutes before 10 am, and I’m standing outside the Bylaw Enforcement Office, where I’m to meet and then tag along with Wayne English.
As the church bells peal, Wayne, who’s been chatting with Bulk Food store-owner Dan Burns across the street, approaches, hand outstretched.
He’s hard to miss: his red golf shirt and baseball cap are emblazoned with “Parking Control” and “LDBIA Community Liaison,” and a chunky electronic device is strapped to his waist. Sunglasses, black shorts, and dusty and well-worn-in walking shoes complete his outfit.
The only other person this might be is Wayne’s partner, John Hope, who wears the same uniform and also has white hair. John, though, is lankier and has a white moustache. (You’re unlikely to see them at the same time — Wayne works three weekdays and John the other two.)
Before we set out, I ask about his background and responsibilities. Wayne, who is 70 now, grew up in Omemee (where his mother still lives) and attended LCVI. He’s had a long career in law enforcement: 25 years on the Lindsay police force; before that five years on the Toronto force. After retiring he worked part-time as an investigator for a law office and for an insurance company.
In May of 2018 Wayne was hired by the Lindsay BIA (Business Improvement Association), sworn in as a provincial offences official and named Parking Control Officer. His role, he was told, included systematically gathering and compiling statistical information on parking usage in the area bounded by Victoria, Peel, Lindsay, and Russell (the BIA’s catchment).
Within that area are 218 municipal street parking and 309 parking lot spots. In addition there are 29 accessible spaces, bringing the total to 556.
Most downtown stores open at 9:30 am, so Wayne begins his rounds shortly before then. When we meet he’s already covered William and a section of Kent.
We set off down Kent and he shows me how he keeps track of parked vehicles and whether they’re exceeding the two-hour free-parking limit. He pulls out his device — a kind of adapted cellphone with custom-designed software — and keys in a license plate number, address, and “indicators” (I’m guessing he’s checking the tire valve stem position).
The next vehicle has no plate on the front. “Out of province,” is Wayne’s guess, and he’s right: it’s a visitor from Quebec. He doesn’t enter the vehicle into his system.
It’s clear he has a lot of discretion and that plastering windshields with tickets isn’t the goal. He and the BIA want a welcoming downtown and that’s more important. The purpose of monitoring parking is just to ensure responsible use of parking spots, an in-demand resource.
He tells me he will often explain regulations and give a warning; occasionally he takes back a ticket if a visitor has a good explanation.
When he started, he was issuing 15 to 30 tickets on Kent Street daily. The number dropped significantly. (“People know we’re out there and observe the limits,” he explains) Even with pressure from downtown street construction it’s now just six to eight tickets a day for street parking violations, six to 12 in the parking lots (where the limit has been four hours).
In his almost year-and-a-half he’s written only one ticket for abuse of an accessible spot, which carries a hefty $350 fine (other tickets are $15). Before issuing that ticket — just in case it wasn’t an elderly person who’d forgotten to display a permit — he talked to the owner of the nearest store and was told the car had been there overnight.
We move to a parking lot behind Kent Street and he fills me in on what he considers the most important part of the job: liaison. Before summer’s downtown road construction he, along with Engineering and Economic Development reps, met with each downtown business to explain what would be going on. During the construction he met routinely with the paving company’s liaison person and the construction site engineer to discuss progress and any issues or potential issues.
“It’s all about communication,” he says. (He’s been impressed by how cooperative businesses are. “It’s neighbours helping neighbours,” he says.)
Each month he reports to BIA’s Parking Committee, sharing statistics and any concerns or observations. (Two sample observations: Signs directing visitors to parking lots are unclear and hard to spot — a white-on-green graphic with three pointing hands; and the alleys alongside the Olympia and Ward’s need to be better-signed to assist those unfamiliar with the downtown).
Back to Kent Street and a couple of final reflections. The first is that the part of Wayne’s job we’re most aware of — enforcing parking regulations — is the least important part of his job.
The second is that as Wayne carries out his duties he doesn’t inspire the kind of resentment or hostility I had anticipated. Sure, “People being people,” as Wayne notes, very occasionally he’ll get a glare or muttered comment, he tells me. But I see nothing but friendly, respectful exchanges. He chats briefly with a panhandler (one of three he sees occasionally), talks golf with a fellow in a Blue Jays Cap, and fields a bylaws question (directing that person to the Municipal Bylaw Office).
My favourite exchange? A longtime resident spots a canoe lashed to a jeep outside Down to Earth, and asks “So, Wayne, how long can you dock a canoe on Kent Street?”
He smiles and continues down Kent Street to complete his first circuit.