Fire protection costs, and pays
Fire protection service is one of those anomalies like insurance. Everyone hopes they never have to use such services, but those who have them must sleep better knowing they are there if ever needed.
People in rural Newfoundland have been blessed with fire protection services provided by volunteer fire departments. Although firefighters are not paid, the service they provide is not entirely free. While municipalities save a lot of money in labour costs, a fire department does cost money to operate, in equipment - for example $837,000 aerial ladder trucks - and training.
In towns like Carbonear, those costs are passed on to taxpayers as part of taxes they pay for the services they enjoy.
The Carbonear Volunteer Fire Department also provides fire protection services to the neighbouring local service district of Freshwater, for which the town council charges annual fees. The local service district is responsible for collecting those fees from their householders.
An issue is currently smouldering between these two parties over outstanding fire protection fees going back almost three years.
According to town officials, the local service district agreed to pay the fees in a deal reached between them in 2004.
After almost three years with no payment, the town has now appealed directly to Freshwater residents. Council has told residents it “ has provided as much leniency as possible and a mutually agreed plan for prompt payment of these fees should now be arranged.”
Some Freshwater residents argue their lack of municipal water and sewer services hinders firefighters’ efforts in providing the same level of protection enjoyed by their Carbonear neighbours. Therefore, Carbonear should not expect them to pay as high an amount as its own more adequately covered residents.
One of the options open to the town under the agreement is to pull the plug on the fire protection service altogether.
The town does not relish the thought of having to take such drastic action. It’s an option the town may have to consider as a last resort after all others have been exhausted.
There is more to this story then we have been able to present to our readers this week. We regret being unable to present both sides.
We did attempt to get the local service district’s take on the whole issue, but they declined our invitation to present their concerns, preferring instead to communicate directly by letter with their residents first.
No doubt their letter will outline their concerns, and we anxiously look forward to reading it.
All we wanted to ask were questions like: Why the fee had not been paid; and what is their response to the letter Carbonear council sent to their householders etc?
While Freshwater residents do have some legitimate concerns about the service, these issues are not without solutions, some of which have already been suggested by the fire chief.
If the local service district agreed to this deal with Carbonear six years ago, then an agreement is an agreement is an agreement.
Whenever one of the parties does not live up to its end of the bargain, there must be reasons for doing so. So what are those reasons?
That’s all we wanted to be able to pass on to our readers to give them a more complete picture.
As has already been suggested, while they may save the nominal service fee in the short term, in the long run, Freshwater residents could end up paying far more in insurance premiums than they are saving, should they lose their fire protection service altogether.
If it comes down to it, taking away a vital, lifesaving service like fire protection is going to be a gut-wrenching decision for any council to have to make. We don’t think it’s going to come to that. It’s too hot an issue to be moved to the back burner - one that needs cool heads to prevail.