© Carole Morris-Underhill
Windsor Fire Chief Scott Burgess says the volunteer firefighters just want to have the issues between the WFD and West Hants council settled so they may continue to serve the community.
Windsor's fire chief says the volunteer firefighting force has had just about enough of West Hants council's antics.
While scrubbing down cars as part of a Relay for Life fundraiser on the weekend, Fire Chief Scott Burgess said the latest move by council has deeply upset the Windsor Fire Department's membership.
“Basically, this has driven our people closer together to stand their ground to say 'enough is enough, this is foolish,'” said Burgess.
“It's actually helping morale at this point because it is crazy to do this.”
Last week, with a 6-3 vote, council approved severing ties with the WFD in favour of creating a stand-alone fire service for the areas currently receiving fire protection coverage by Windsor.
The WFD has been in a very public contract battle with West Hants council for about four years. In April 2013, West Hants abruptly changed how they would fund the WFD, requiring the non-profit society to immediately begin producing receipts before they could receive payment for their services. Prior to the change, the department received quarterly lump sum payments. The change, which did not affect any of the other fire stations serving West Hants, has resulted in Windsor not receiving a dime in funding. However, the WFD hasn't produced the required receipts.
Due to integrated accounting methods, Burgess says the WFD executive just needs the chance to work with municipal staff to resolve the receipts issue.
“We've offered their staff, the CAO and financial director, (an opportunity) to come in and sit with us and go through our accounting system. No issue,” said Burgess.
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“What we're not going to buy into is an itemized list for council to micromanage for if we're buying rubber boots or if we're buying hose,” he continued, noting providing a detailed list is not how a third party service provider conducts business.
“We provide a service for a bulk, lump sum price — the same as their policing, the same as their waste management — and that's what we stand by.”
It's estimated nearly $700,000 is owed to the WFD for Station 1 and the substation in Vaughan.
In light of not being paid and council's most recent motion, the chief said the fire department has received a number of calls urging them to terminate the service they provide.
“It's the end of the rope. Our firefighters have had enough of the false allegations, the finger pointing, the untruths. We have facts to back up every statement that has ever been made against us, we just have not taken that low road in the media to basically blow them out of the water,” said Burgess.
The chief said the decision to give notice will need to be made by the entire membership.
He noted that the firefighters, many of whom are county residents, are simply fed up with the unresolved issue.
“Basically, all gloves are off. We're more or less done with it.”