Fire protection in jeopardy
Bay Roberts threatening to cut loose Port de Grave and Bareneed if fees are not paid
Residents in the communities of Bareneed and Port de Grave could be without fire protection services in 2013 if they do not pay their fees.
The two Conception Bay North communities receive fire protection from the neighbouring Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department.
Town officials with Bay Roberts have indicated that about 45 per cent of residents have paid the $50 yearly fee.
Of the $42,814.50 that the town invoiced the residents of Bareneed and Port de Grave at the beginning of the 2012, there is still $23,529.50 in outstanding fees that are now in arrears.
Due to this, the town will not be issuing any further notices or invoices for 2012, according to Mayor Philip Wood.
“Anytime, we send a bevy of bills out it costs between $300 and $500 initially to send out the bill,” he said.
Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood
The motion passed in the council meeting last week was at the recommendation of the finance committee.
In addition to the resources being used to send out the invoices, there are “considerable” resources being spent on staff out collecting fees.
“It’s costing the residents of Bay Roberts every time ( fire) trucks have to go down there,” said Wood.
The mayor said there is usually a minimum two or three trucks that go with every call.
Wood stressed that this push for fees and the possible retraction of services had nothing to do with any request from the fire department.
“We don’t mind doing it, but in return we need the fees paid up,” he said.
Boat owners are not much better than the house owners when it comes to paying fees.
The town collects roughly 60 per cent of fees from vessel owners.
Money for department
Some might wonder where the money being collected goes.
“This isn’t town revenue,” said Wood.
It does not go into the town’s coffers, but back into the fire department.
When the rescue van was purchased in 2008, a part of the payment came from money taken from collections, according to the mayor.
However, at that time, Bay Roberts extended fire protection services to Clarke’s Beach and area, as well as Port de Grave and Bareneed.
Since the inception of the Bay de Grave Fire Department, there has not been a need for Bay Roberts to extend services to Clarke’s Beach and area.
Fire chief Clarence Russell was in attendance at the June 12 council meeting.
He said he agreed with the decision to give notice of termination of services, but questioned whether the town
“It’s costing the residents of Bay Roberts every time trucks have to go down
there.” — Philip Wood
should “set up a meeting with boat owners
Russell indicated trips to fight fires could become costly should a piece of equipment be lost during the course of fighting a fire.
“A hose costs $200 a length,” said the chief.
Wood said it isn’t fair to the town’s volunteers.
“They’re giving up their work and there’s a barter system for that,” he said. “This goes towards improving fire services.” Residents view Herman Porter is a resident of Port de Grave and also serves as the treasurer with the Port de Grave Waste Disposal Committee.
He said Bay Roberts has every right to pull its services if the fees are not being paid.
“I agree with that. I don’t like it, but what can we do?” said Porter. “If people aren’t willing to pay for a service, I don’t see why Bay Roberts should have to pay for us.”
One thing people don’t see, according to Porter, is the fact without fire protection, their insurance rates would increase. In fact, there is the possibility that insurance costs could double.
He said one option going forward for th e residents would be t o approach the Bay de Grave Fire Department for services should Bay Roberts pull out of the community.
Porter had doubts that it would work because “if they don’t want to pay one, they aren’t going to pay another.
“I don’t known what in the devil the answer is,” he said.
Porter said the $50 per year for the service is “peanuts.”
“In all honesty, I really can’t blame them for cutting the service off,” he said. “We’ve had boat fires, house fires and a fish plant fire down here, and still people will not understand that the fire department is only asking for a minimal fee.”
Wood said that although there are residents of both communities who pay the fees, the town would base the provision of fire protection in 2012 on the overall collection rate for 2012.