City reacts to fire agreement

If the three new fire protection agreements materialize the city stands to lose approximately $172,000.

If the three new fire protection agreements materialize for residents living within the fringe areas, the city stands to lose approximately $172,000 in revenue, says a report presented to council Tuesday.

In the report, the city’s fire protection agreement negotiating committee shows revenue will drop by going from a residential assessment agreement to a total assessment scenario.

When the negotiating committee met on Sept 10, negotiations focused on council’s total assessment concept, stated the report.

“The Cariboo Regional District, however, did discuss the option of trying to extend the existing fire protection boundaries of the 150 Mile House and Wildwood volunteer fire departments.

This discussions resulted in the negotiating committee indicating that this may result in reduced revenue for the city and that this is not what council had contemplated when it passed its resolution for a total assessment formula.”

Alternatively, the committee felt the right and fair formula would be based on total assessment.

Reacting to the report, Coun. Ivan Bonnell said there are no agreements in place.

“The district’s going out to its people, which is totally within its right, to ask for funding authority based on these numbers on the assumption that they’ve got an agreement with the city to do this. We haven’t agreed to provide the service on that basis,” he said.

There are two key aspects, Bonnell explained, “The existing agreement is based on residential assessment. That’s what it’s always been based upon. The cost to service residents, city or rural they are the same.”

Go to the total assessment scenario, on the city side, it puts the city’s industrial and commercial tax base into the pool, which offsets the rural resident costs, Bonnell said.

“That doesn’t help the city taxpayer. We still have to pay for our roads, our police, our parks.”

When Bonnell saw the $74 per 100,000 of assessment value the CRD suggested city taxpayers are paying for fire protection, he didn’t agree.

“I told our director of finance to go back to the existing fire protection agreements and go through the assessment figures based on those agreements and I can tell you it won’t be $74.”

After receiving the report, council passed a motion that city staff will contact the CRD and ask for a new agreement for rural fire protection for council’s further consideration.

In the meantime, fringe area residents are going to referendum on Nov. 24.

At that time residents of Area D, E and a portion of the fringe area of Electoral Area F will be deciding if they wish to continue having their service provided by the City of Williams Lake Volunteer Fire Department (VFD).

If this referendum is successful, affected residents would be paying up to $140 per $100,000 of residential assessment.

If the vote is defeated, residents will no longer have fire protection effective Jan. 1, 2013.

For residents in portions of Area F, that live within the 13-kilometre service area of the 150 Mile House Volunteer Fire Department, the referendum question will ask if residents wish to have their service provided by the 150 Mile House Volunteer Fire Department.

If this referendum is successful, affected residents would pay approximately $68 per $100,000 of residential assessment.

“Depending on the outcome of the referendum, we will need more information to move forward,” Mayor Kerry Cook said.

Coun. Laurie Walters, a member of the negotiating committee, said when they were negotiating the agreement it was also under the assumption that the fringe areas were going to be included in the budget.

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