Big Lakes proposes higher fire call fees

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Big Lakes County is proposing an increase in what it charges for fire department response to emergency calls.

At its Oct. 14 meeting, county council gave first reading to a bylaw to accomplish that.

Making the recommendation was county director of community and protective services Brett Hawken.

“While looking for alternative financial sources of revenue during fiscally restrictive times,” he said, “administration recommends billing for all fire services within the county.”

Hawken added that the bylaw change would allow the county to bill at the rates set out in the Northwest Alberta Emergency Resource Agreement, which the county follows. The agreement sets out fees that municipal fire services charge other municipalities in the northwest part of the province when their services are requested. A fairly recent example is the wildfire that threatened High Level last year, at which several municipal departments helped out (including from Slave Lake). Thanks to the agreement, everybody involved knows what to charge and what they will be paying.

Many of the current fees for service the county charges, Hawken continued, are lower than provincial rates. Even if they are brought into line, a deficit situation will still exist, warned CAO Jordan Panasiuk.

“You’ll never recover costs in fines,” he said.

Administration plans to present the new set of fees at an upcoming meeting of council for second reading.

The bylaw is written in such a way that may allow ratepayers without insurance to have their bill waived or reduced by council, and may allow ratepayers with insurance to have their fee reduced to their insurance coverage. Council may also waive or reduce the fees upon request, based on financial circumstances.

Ratepayers will be sent a letter outlining their options.

Big Lakes County provides fire services at Kinuso, Faust, Joussard, Enilda and Grouard. They serve rural High Prairie under an agreement with the Town of High Prairie.

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