MARATHON — If you're a resident, now is the time to brush up on your knowledge of Marathon’s by-laws.
There’s a new by-law officer on the beat.
In a Facebook post on Jan. 8, the township announced that Jeff Morgan has taken on the role of By-Law Enforcement Officer and began his duties on Jan. 2.
Morgan was officially sworn in on Jan. 8.
“I just finished up my first week, now onto my second. So far, so good! I had a couple of calls I was able to go to - it’s a very all-encompassing role, I have to wear a lot of hats here so there’s pre-training to do and I'm kind of in the middle of all of that. I’ll be in that probably for the next few months as I start to get up to date on everything,” Morgan said.
It’s a good fit for a man who was born and raised in Marathon until he was 18, when he moved away for education in North Bay, travelled to Toronto, then Whitby, and spent some years here and there working out in Alberta.
Morgan has been back in Marathon now for two years.
He said he’s glad to be back near his family and in a place where he can enjoy some of his favourite outdoorsy activities like hiking or trying his hand at some hunting.
“I wanted to come back to the North and be close to my parents and close to some other family members. I found during the lockdown, being locked down in a small apartment really changed my perspective.”
After his lockdown experience, Morgan said that he is happy to not only be living closer to his family but also to be living in a house as opposed to an apartment – especially if pandemic restrictions like that ever make a comeback.
“Being 12 hours away was too much,” he said.
He applied for the by-law enforcement position after learning that his predecessor was leaving for a new job and at the suggestion of members of the administrative team for the township who said he should give it a shot.
You might be asking yourself, “What does by-law enforcement look like anyway?”
Morgan noted that the term ‘enforcement’ can be misleading in the sense that his job extends far beyond that.
“It encompasses a lot of roles, including animal control, looking at zoning, making sure people are taking care of their property, taking care of parking in the town – like where you’re not supposed to park – take care of that, and then it also dips into business where I authorize business licenses.
"There’s some work where we’re kind of staying away from doing liquor licenses. I have another person that’s going to be taking that over. And there’s many more. Each of those are covered by pretty extensive by-laws.
"There are certain expectations that the town has, such as there are certain times when they might want to have a blitz on parking or having inoperable vehicles parked on your lawn. There are certain things they’d want to push for and that’s where I would put most of my effort.
"And also following up on complaints. If residents complain about a certain thing then [I] have to follow-up on those. That’s part of my mandate,” he said.
Morgan went on to clarify that although you don’t have to know every by-law word-for-word to be a successful by-law officer, it’s still important to know them well.
He also said that observation plays a large part in his work.
“More of it is learned in practice. The more calls you do, the more times you’re out there, the more you’re going to be able to take in and use that experience to better adapt for each given situation you come across.”
A mixture of experience, education, and growing up in Marathon are what make Morgan the perfect candidate for the job, among other qualities.
With a background in mental health, adult/youth correction services, and youth criminal justice, Morgan has worked for and with a number of different agencies including the Children’s Aid Society and the Jewish Family and Child Service.
“But by-law [enforcement] is a lot about your interaction too – with people and with the community. That’s the biggest piece and that’s the part that I’ve really pushed forward. My goal is going to be progressive. I want to be out there. I’m going to be doing lots of patrols and lots of interaction with the public.”
Looking ahead, Morgan added that education is another big piece of his plan as the new by-law enforcement officer.
He said that there is often confusion or misunderstanding among residents about the existence of certain by-laws and what does or does not constitute a by-law.
And with a six-month gap between him and his predecessor, Morgan observed that the time Marathon has spent without a by-law officer has led to a certain amount of leeway across the community when it comes to respecting by-laws.
“I really want to educate first and try to give people ideas about making the community a better place for everybody. Everybody has a role to play in that, including myself. If I can make that a collaborative effort, that’s my goal,” he said.
Collaboration is key, as Morgan noted when he said that Marathon’s administrative team have been beyond supportive of him.
“The team here is second to none. There’s so many people that are just ready to give me advice and help me out with things and show me the ropes. It’s a fantastic place to work.”
Mayor Rick Dumas was equally enthusiastic speaking to Al Cresswell on CFNO.
“I’m looking forward to working with Jeff. Administration is very pleased – it takes a lot of stress off of our administrative team and it’s always important to have an individual to make sure that people are following the rules and regulations within the municipality. No sense having by-laws if you don’t have anybody there to enforce them,” Dumas said.
Dumas echoed Morgan’s comments, however, that the role is less about enforcement and more about education.
“We all want to make sure our community is well-kept, looked after, and safe for all residents.”
Not one to be daunted by a challenge, Morgan seems more than ready to take on the diverse responsibilities of a by-law enforcement officer.
“It can be a varied role. From one day, you’re looking out, trying to take care of a stray dog, to the next you’re trying to figure out if a zoning by-law infringes on a person’s property. It can be pretty wild, I’ll tell you.”