Council examines unpaid firefighting bills

Written by Stu Salkeld

Alix village council decided to essentially write off two unpaid bills related to fire department services as it seemed unlikely they would ever be paid. The decision was made at the Aug. 3 regular meeting of council.

Village Chief Administrative officer (CAO) Michelle White presented councillors with a report on the first two unpaid and effectively uncollectable bills related to the new fire department response policy which was approved by council in 2021.

“The policy authorized the circumstances and rates for billing when the fire department is called out to do fire suppression,” stated White’s memo to council.

“Two of our first invoices issued under this policy remain outstanding.”

White explained the first unpaid bill, totalling $500, was charged to a rental tenant who resided at 5115 46th Street in Alix. The property owner and village staff made several attempts to recover the charges.

The individual responsible for the fire no longer lives at the above address.

The CAO stated the second invoice totalled $850 and was related to a vehicle fire.

“The individual charged does not own property in Alix therefore we are not able to collect the funds by transferring them to a property tax account,” stated White.

White stated the two unpaid bills are sitting on the village’s books and while they don’t necessarily affect the village, the bills do affect the fire department because all of the funds collected through the fire response policy are transferred to the fire department to cover their expenses.

The CAO explained the Municipal Government Act (MGA) allows council to transfer the bills to a property tax account, but neither of the two people involved owns property in the village.

White stated the landlord in the second case was very good at trying to collect the debt and did everything that was reasonably possible.

White stated the MGA also gives council the authority to waive a bill through resolution.

Coun. Ed Cole stated he felt that the property owner sounds like he’d been good to the village and didn’t want to see him get stuck with the bill.

White stated when the policy was adopted Alix took a public education approach and tried to let the public know which services would come with a bill.

She said most bills under the policy are paid, with these two the only exceptions. She did note that village staff are willing to work with people who are having trouble paying a bill.

She added that she felt the policy was achieving its goal otherwise.

Mayor Rob Fehr stated there didn’t seem to be many options for the unpaid debts.

“I think you just waive it because you’re not going to collect it,” said Fehr.
Councillors unanimously approved waiving fire department charges for the two accounts in question.


Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.