Meet Your Neighbor: Job’s a balancing act
For Ron Fontaine, cruising Grass Valley’s streets in a three-wheel cart is similar to walking between shelves of toiletries and snack foods.
Around each corner is a chance to meet a new face.
Fontaine, 40, has been the Grass Valley Police Department’s parking enforcement officer less than two weeks, but the work already resembles his former job as a Rite Aid assistant manager in Yuba City.
“I think that was one of the reasons they selected me. I had experience working with the public,” he said.
But this job is better, he said. He gets to be outside, meet the public and most important, spend more time with his wife, Lou, and their three children in Penn Valley.
“So far it’s been great. Everyone I’ve met has been really friendly, and I’ve really enjoyed myself so far,” he said.
Fontaine’s job takes him through the downtown area, the shopping centers along Freeman Lane and McKnight Way, and the streets in and around Morgan Ranch. He wears a uniform but isn’t a licensed peace officer and doesn’t have a gun.
After a week’s grace period while he got to know people and educate some on parking ordinances, he started chalking tires and issuing tickets – from $13 tickets for motorists who violated time limits to a $250 ticket for someone parked in a handicap zone.
Fontaine’s job is a difficult balancing act, said Capt. Jerod Johnson, whose department received 70 applications for the position.
The parking cop, he said, is “an ambassador from the police department, from ‘Where can I have lunch?’ to ‘Where can I park?’ Yet they also have to be the bearer of bad news and issue a ticket.”
A typical day yields 15 to 30 tickets.
Fontaine, Johnson said, is “an easygoing individual, but he also has the right mix of managerial experience and working with people.”
Fontaine is also easygoing behind the wheel.
How fast does the department’s gas-powered cart go?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t pushed it to its limit. It gets me up the hill OK.”
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