Fire dues paid by post-dated cheques

Eric McCarthy
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But still no signed contract in place

ALBERTON -- As far as Mayor Michael Murphy is concerned, it is not a big deal that the Alberton Rural Fire District committee still hasn’t signed a contract with the Town of Alberton for fire services.

The town has received four post-dated cheques from the committee to cover fire dues for the year and that’s good enough for the mayor. “We’re cool with that; we’re just happy to get the money.”

But council still wants to get to the bottom of why the contract, which was due by the end of March, still does not bear the signatures of committee members. At the urging of councillor Blair Duggan, council decided to arrange a meeting with the committee.

“Maybe some communication would go a long way if we could get together with them,” Duggan said in planning for next year.

“We’ll gladly sit down and talk with them any time they want,” Mayor Murphy stated.

The fire district committee has iexpressed reluctance in signing the contract because of concerns about the actual wording, especially given that there was never a contract in place before. 

The town's fire Committee chairman Krystyna Pottier acknowledges the contract has a stipulation that the district meet with representatives of the town no later than February 9 no later than February 9, 2015 to discuss fees.

Council’s package did contain two letters from the fire district committee, dated April 17 and May 9. The committee pointed out Council set the new rates after the fire district had held its annual meeting on March 4. The latter letter provided the committee’s payment schedule for the past 10 years and stressed monthly payments are received from the provincial government each fiscal year from April to March and insisted its payment schedule to the town covers from April to March.

The post-dated cheques are for the end of June, end of September and two for the end of December. In total, they cover the full amount of what the town is charging for fire services for the year, $111,945.56. The committee indicates one of those December cheques is to cover the first the first three months of 2015, as one of the cheques last year covered the first three months of 2014. Council, however, disputes that position.

The fiscal period for the town, Pottier points out, is January 1 to December 31, and that is the period for which fire dues were billed.

In an interview following the meeting, Mayor Murphy disputed the differences in fiscal years, pointing out individual tax bills cover the calendar year.

Murphy admits he is unconcerned about the payment schedule. “I’m just happy to get the money and, as far as having a contract in place, that was on the suggestion of Community and Cultural Affairs and the Fire Marshall’s office. It’s irrelevant to us; we just need a verbal agreement like we had for years and years. We provide the service and we tell them what the cost is.”

“It’s unclear how the Alberton Fire District can pay dues for a quarter in the next fiscal year when Alberton fire dues have not been set for next year yet,” Pottier had commented.

“It seems like they understood for the last 10 years their last payment covered the first quarter,” Duggan commented in reviewing the committee’s letters.

Pottier argued the invoices from the town covered the town’s fiscal year, which corresponds with the calendar year.  She added it is her understanding the fire district receives money from the province on a monthly basis.

“I think the town is open to considering any kind of payment structure that would work for both the fire district and the town. I don’t think we’re whetted to a specific payment schedule.”

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