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Fire Department service fees, fines discussed at City Hall

Fines for breaking fire rules, safety aspects and service fees were among items debated during City Council on Monday.

During the meeting, a new draft of the City’s fire bylaws were discussed, including some revisions to fines and service fees. These fines include a running scale for violations such as neglecting to have the proper fire safety necessities in a building, false alarms or other rules being broken. Some of these fines could range in the hundreds to thousands of dollars for repeat offences.

Mayor Gerald Aalbers expressed concern over these numbers, especially things like repeated false alarms, which has a maximum fine of $500 for the fourth or more offences. He notes that he’s concerned that this might not go far enough.

“There hasn’t been a lot of change in the fines here, and my concern is that, are we sending a clear enough message, because a fine is a deterrent. If you’ve broken the rules, there’s a fine. If that fine is isn’t a large enough deterrent to fix the problem that’s causing the fine, then that’s the catch.”

There was also some talk around making the fire department’s budget not as reliant on taxpayer funding. Since going from a volunteer service to a composite one, the budget for these services has gone from around $800,000 to over $3 million. Councillor Aaron Buckingham said that there are a few possibilities that they could alleviate some of that cost on citizens, while still maintaining the output.

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“There’s those fines and user fees, there’s billing for accidents and that kind of stuff, and the potential to bill for house fires. That’s not common practice in the city to do that, but I think we need to consider all options because at the end of the day, the taxpayer is footing the bill for all of it, and is there a way we can offset that cost?”

Other things discussed were ways of working with businesses to help make firefighters aware of possibly hazardous items on the scene before they respond to an emergency. Mayor Aalbers touched on his time as a volunteer firefighter to express how important this is.

“We are in a community that deals in the oil industry and other industries. Dangerous goods are part of many people’s lives, but as a firefighter, the biggest, scariest situation I was ever in as a volunteer was going into something where you didn’t know what was on the other side of the wall. Certainly, in a commercial application, that exists in our city, and I just want to ensure that our fire service team has the best information that they possibly can.”

The draft bylaw will be brought back up in a future council meeting for more discussion and review.

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