The Charlie Lake Fire Department is at a crossroads and although more than 200 residents attended Tuesday’s public meeting, the Department still has no clear direction as to how it will proceed.
Fire Chief Al Pinkerton told Moose FM’s Issues and Answers that unless the department is taken over by the Peace River Regional District that many of the costs for running fire services in the Charlie Lake area, including liability insurance, could increase dramatically.
The Municipal Insurance Association will not be covering any organization that is not directly run by the local government, which currently includes the Charlie Lake Fire Department, says PRRD Chair Karen Goodings. Goodings says that some of the organizations that are no longer covered have already been required to obtain their own insurance and it has not been a significant increase.
Pinkerton had told residents that if the fire department has to obtain its own liability insurance that it would be approximately ten times the cost that it is currently. Pinkerton says one reason behind the high insurance cost is because insurance companies look at an organization’s assets and since the organization is non-profit, it has no assets. The fire trucks, station and the land it sits on are all owned by either the Regional District or the Province.
Moira Green has been a resident of Charlie Lake for more than eight years. Green was at Tuesday’s meeting and says it was encouraging to see how many residents attended the public meeting and how engaged they were.
She says she has been satisfied with the fire department’s services but believes the problems the department is facing are part of a greater problem related to governance.
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Green says the District officials that were at the meeting did make it clear that residents have to become involved and speak up about the changes that they want to see. She also says the meeting showed her that a change is necessary.
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Goodings says the Regional District is considering six or seven options, one of which would be for the District to take over control of the Charlie Lake Fire Department.
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At Tuesday’s meeting, Goodings had said the Regional District has a preferred policy of contracting out services rather than employing workers under the District. However, she says other options can be explored and policies can be altered.
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Goodings also says she wants to address the fact that if the fire department fundraises money or is given donations, any of those extra funds are in addition to and have no influence on the department’s budget.
The Fire Department is currently in the process of acquiring quotes from various insurance companies to find out exactly how much its liability insurance would be and has also submitted its upcoming budget for District approval.