© Carole Morris-Underhill
The Windsor Fire Department has been operating in Windsor since 1881 and serving West Hants for about 60 years.
Mike Campbell's attempt to persuade fellow West Hants councillors to reverse their spring decision that saw them change how the Windsor Fire Department gets paid was dismissed.
At the Sept. 10 regular council meeting, the Falmouth councillor requested council reconsider the motion made April 9, 2013 to “continue to fund the operational expenses of the Windsor Fire Department based on receipts submitted monthly” and to set aside the remaining funds in a West Hants capital reserve account.
Prior to council changing how they fund the service, the Windsor Fire Department received lump sum payments from the municipality throughout the year.
“Our volunteer firefighters have not been paid,” Campbell said as he broached the subject.
He noted that while council has publicly praised the firefighters and the service they provide, requiring them to provide the municipality with a detailed account of all of the expenses relating to West Hants calls is asking too much.
“The volunteer firefighters risk their lives and limbs every 24 hours, seven days a week to protect our communities, homes and families. With all due respect, we must pay for their services,” said Campbell.
The Windsor Fire Department has not received any financial payments for their services from the municipality since April 1, 2013 and has been operating without a signed contract with West Hants for about three years. However, the volunteer force has continued to serve the region. Since the April motion, they have responded to several significant emergency calls, including two large-scale house fires, one in Centre Burlington and one in Falmouth, as well as several fatal car accidents throughout the county.
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“Shame on us!” said Campbell, before introducing his motion to have the April 9 council decision rescinded.
The floor was quiet as the warden called for someone to second Campbell’s motion, which would have allowed for council discussion on the topic. After three mandatory calls for a seconder went unanswered, the motion was lost.
Following that decision, Dauphinee said he wanted to respond and explain the current funding situation. It was Dauphinee who introduced the original motion to change how the municipality funds the Windsor Fire Department in the first place.
“I brought that up so I feel responsible for it. I thought I was doing the right thing; trying to get back on track and trying to get on a level playing field with Windsor,” said Dauphinee.
The warden noted that the Town of Windsor does not make lump sum payments to the fire department like the municipality used to do in the past. He said that is why he brought forward the suggestion, which was approved but not unanimously supported.
“We're not saying we won't pay them the money. The money... was put in the budget this year. The money is there anytime they want it.” Warden Richard Dauphinee
Coun. Victor Swinamer asked if any legal advice was obtained before they made the April 9 motion to change how they fund the fire department. The warden responded that it was a motion made by council that was based on research into how Windsor funds the fire department.
“If this ends up in court, where they're not getting paid, do you think that motion will stand up in court?” continued Swinamer.
The warden reminded council that the fire department could get paid if they provided detailed receipts of their expenses. As of the Sept. 10 meeting, the department had not provided a breakdown of the costs associated with the emergency calls to the municipality.
“They just have to submit what it is that they've spent every month,” said Dauphinee. “We're not saying we won't pay them the money. The money... was put in the budget this year. The money is there anytime they want it.”
Dauphinee reminded council that should they want to change the funding formula in the future they can always put forward a motion to do so.