Reaction to higher fees mostly positive, says mayor
Bay Roberts increases fire protection rate by 50 per cent for neighbouring property owners
It has been just over three months since the Town of Bay Roberts raised fire protection fees for property owners in the nearby unincorporated communities of Port de Grave, Bareneed and several properties in Otterbury, and Mayor Philip Wood said last week the reaction has been mostly positive.
“I thought that there would be a negative reaction, but actually the negative reaction was against the ones who weren’t paying,” said Wood.
In December, the Bay Roberts town council adopted its 2013 municipal operating budget. The budget contained a 50 per cent increase — from $50 to $75 annually — in fire service fees for property owners in these communities.
Wood said the hike in fees was done in line with the rising cost in fire services.
“For many years fees did not go up, but costs have increased and funds go toward purchasing additional equipment,” he said.
A prime example of this is the new truck purchased by the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department. With a portable pump in the bed, the truck is designed with Port de Grave in mind, since there are no fire hydrants in the community.
The department has also purchased new self-contained breathing apparatuses, according to Wood.
“That’s the kind of things it goes toward,” said Wood. “All of which is at the benefit of the community.”
Some have suggested the increase was prompted by the town’s frustra- tions at trying to collect the fee, and that it was only penalizing those who loyally paid, while those who didn’t were getting a free ride.
Wood denied this was the case, but commented that everything would go smoother if everyone paid the fee.
“It’s like any taxes or fees. It’s a lot better when everyone is pulling together,” he said.
However, Wood has seen an increase in collections since the town decided to put more emphasis on having the residents pay.
“Since the last time, fees have picked up considerably,” he said. “The only issue now is some longterm people do not believe that they should be paying anything.
Wood said it is in the best interest of residents to pay the $75, since it can result in lower insurance premiums.
“Many people were upset because they felt they would lose the service, not because the Town of Bay Roberts may cut it off, but others weren’t paying their share,” said Wood.
One thing is sure though. Bay Roberts will not be withholding fire services from residents who have not paid their fees.
“It’s an honour system. In fact, we’ve gone down to houses on a couple of occasions and those individuals have not been paying their dues,” said Wood. “With regard to some of the ones who aren’t paying, the fire department is going to visit with them and explain the importance behind it.”
Philip Wood is the mayor of Bay Roberts.