By Mark Squibb/November 9, 2022
Folks belonging to Bareneed and Port de Grave may find themselves without a fire protection service as some have not paid their fire protection fees to the Town of Bay Roberts.
The issue was debated at Bay Roberts council last month, and not for the first time.
Back in November, 2021, Town CAO Nigel Black told council the collection rate was about 72 per cent year-to-date. The collection rate in 2022 was 78 percent.
Since then, council has erected signage asking property owners in the neighboring areas to pay their fees.
Councillor Silas Badcock asked for clarification about the possibility of discontinuation of services.
“Are we saying that someone who has been paying their bills for 40 years, they’re going to lose their service?” asked Badcock.
“If we decide to give up service in that area, then yes,” said councillor Dean Franey. “You’re on your own basically. However, we do thank the people who are paying… We appreciate the ones that pay. But we need a majority (to pay), so that was the purpose of the signs, to let people know that if you’re not paying, you need to pay, and if you don’t know you need to pay, you need to pay.”
The problem is compounded by the fact the Town cannot get an updated property list of the outlying areas.
“Over the past year we’ve reached out to various agencies to help us solve the problem and we haven’t been able to get the support,” said Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour.
Mayor Walter Yetman added that those agencies are government agencies, “or wings of government agencies.”
Seymour asked whether the provincial government is responsible for fire protection services.
Councillor Franey responded that municipalities are responsible for fire protection.
“If you look out in Corner Brook, out in Humber Valley Resort with three-quarter million-dollar homes, they have no fire protection,” said Franey. “Pinchgut Lake, which is a very large cabin area, just outside of Corner Brook where people live all year, they have no fire protection.”
He relayed a news story from years back when a home on Pinchgut Lake caught fire and the Corner Brook Fire Department chose not to respond.
“At the end of the day, it was my understanding that the provincial government has an obligation to help these jurisdictions secure fire service,” said Seymour.
“I feel for the person, I feel for Mr. So-and-So, who’s 80 years old and has been being his bill all these years, and now we’re going to cut services,” said Badcock.
“And I feel for our residents who are paying to have fire services and getting those services and we have to go and get extra equipment to service this (outlying) area, from which we’re not getting the full amount,” countered Frank Deering.
“At the end of the day, for a municipality or community to provide services they have to collect fees,” said Mayor Yetman. “And that’s just the bottom line. We have to collect fees, and it’s a shame that we have to remind people to pay $100 a year for fire protection. It’s a shame that we’ve had to put up signs, that we’re spending money on signs.”
Deering said Franey could correct him, but he thought the Bay Roberts Fire Department had purchased a special piece of equipment especially to better serve the neighboring unincorporated areas.
Franey said that, yes, the department had purchased a PortaTank (essentially an inflatable pool that can be used to help fight fires in rural areas.)
CAO Black reminded council that no decision has yet been made to pull any services.
“We’re going to revaluate at the end of the year,” said Black, who went on to say the signage was a method of informing people that they need to pay up and that so far, it seemed to be working to a degree, as some folks have called in to pay, some of whom had no idea they were supposed to pay a fee.
“At the end of this year, council can look at that and decide whether they’re comfortable with the list (of payees) and whether you want to continue to provide services,” said Black.
Seymour noted the last thing the Town wants to do is pull fire services, but there has to be “a relationship or a partnership that works for the taxpayers of Bay Roberts and the residents of Port de Grave.”