ALBERTON -- The Town of Alberton has received from the Alberton Rural Fire District Committee the first two quarterly payments for 2014 fire protection but it still awaits a signed fire service contract.
The Town had requested a signed service contract from the rural fire district committee and two municipalities its fire department services by March 31.
By the time the town held its monthly meeting on April 14, the rural fire district committee was the only party that had not returned the contract. That led Town Council to set an April 17 deadline for the committee to sign.
The chairman of the fire district committee, Maxine Rennie, confirmed Thursday that two quarterly payments, totaling $27,986.39, had been provided to Mayor Michael Murphy Thursday morning, but she said her committee is not comfortable with the wording of the contract presented by the town and is not prepared to sign it at this time.
As well, she said, such a contract is not part of the process which had been used the past number of years. She said her committee would be seeking clarification and guidance from the Provincial Fire Marshall concerning the contract.
“Alberton Rural Fire District remains committed to the Alberton Fire Department and to the volunteer men and women who provide a high level of service to the residents that we serve,” she insisted.
In presenting the quarterly payments, the committee requested from the town a detailed financial statement showing where the rural fire tax dollars were spent in the 2013 budget.
Rennie said the fire district set their rates for 2014 during its annual meeting on March 4. Those rates were based on a fire budget provided by the fire chief at their meeting. It was three days later that they learned the town was changing the formula, leaving the fire district responsible for a greater share of the fire budget. As a result, the cost to the fire district is increasing by more than $13,000 this year, she noted. The committee will be able to cover the quarterly payments this year without readjusting the dues rural property owners pay, but she said increases in rates would likely be needed next year.
The Fire Committee chair on Town Council, Krystyna Pottier argued earlier this week that the increase is fair, because it costs more for the department to respond to calls outside of town, and the majority of calls originate outside of town.