Council passed third and final reading of the Fire Ban Bylaw at their regular meeting on Tues. May 21.
One of the most notable changes was the removal of a $1,000 taxpayer subsidy from fire bills.
Prior members of council have tried to give farmers within the county special rights for not paying fire bills in the past, but that is not a constitutionally valid motion, and so the practice of subsidizing the first $1,000 of the bill for everyone was decided instead.
When administration reviewed the bylaw, they felt this practice was not fair to taxpayers.
Public safety and responsibility was also a driving factor behind the changes.
The purpose of this bylaw is to hold those who cause fires accountable, with the intention of reducing fires in the county through stronger penalties which discourage behaviours that lead to fires, which includes the ability to levy charges for cost against more than just property owners, who sometimes are the victim of fires which did not originate on their land.
An example of this situation would be a ditch grass fire started by someone throwing a cigarette out of a car window or welding outside while it’s dry.
Citizens who feel they’ve been given a bill for firefighting unfairly still have the avenue to appeal to council to reduce or waive the bills, but they must be able to prove the case as to why they should be exempt.
At a prior meeting, Chris Brearley, Coronation’s deputy fire chief was writing as a private citizen concerned with the bylaw, noting consultation was needed prior to the bylaw passing.
Marty Rowland had also made some comments via text message to a counsellor with the suggestion to give the responding fire departments more authority.
Council chose to leave the enforcement in the hands of the Community Peace Officer.
“While Chris may feel fire departments should have special access, the County felt it was fair to open the bylaw up to all citizens at the same time. Fire departments are, however, consulted in drafting fire service agreements between the County and the contracted providers,” said Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Simpson.
If they choose, for example, to offer firefighting services at no cost to the people who get a fire bill, they can do so, but it will mean an increase in taxes to cover the cost, as that is not currently in the budget and will have to be accounted for at some point.
Castor youth drop-in centre vision
As a way to avoid nuisance behaviour and creating a supportive and safe space for teens and young adults, the Castor Drop-In Centre hopes to have a room at the Golden Age Centre in the basement open five days a week, year round.
The centre’s committee has come up with new ideas to make it a reality which was presented at council as they are potential funders to the project.
They identified Castor as a place lacking in youth spaces and that it is a need for youngsters in the area.
Youth between the ages of 18 and 25 who choose to volunteer will be left with responsibility of watching over but renovations, additions like gaming systems, basic supplies, rent and utilities create the bulk of the cost for the centre to even start.
Many fundraisers are also expected to happen throughout the year to keep it operational as they will be located in the basement of the Golden Circle in Castor.
They will be leasing the space for three years to start.
The centre has the potential to have opportunities like free guitar lessons, homework tutors, counselling, resume and job development and more.
Council agreed to wait to provide funding until a lease agreement is solidified.