County of Wetaskiwin cancels mutual aid over unpaid $67,719

County met with Ermineskin First Nation before decision

The County of Wetaskiwin won’t be responding to firefighting requests from the Ermineskin First Nation after examining unpaid bills dating back 11 years at their regular meeting Feb. 11.

Director of Emergency services Mike Zajac presented councilors with a memo detailing a bill owed by the Ermineskin First Nation for over $60,000 dating back to the mid 2000’s.

“Ermineskin has multiple outstanding fire invoices with Wetaskiwin Rural Fire Department, Buck Lake/Alder Flats Fire Department and the South Pigeon Lake Fire Department totaling $67,719,” stated Zajac in his report.

“On October 13, 2012 the City of Wetaskiwin, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation and the County of Wetaskiwin entered into a Mutual Aid Fire Agreement where the Fire Departments listed in the agreement would provide assistance when requested by another Fire Department.

“The requesting Fire Department is invoiced and responsible to compensate for all applicable labor and equipment costs.” Zajac noted Ermineskin requested firefighting services which were sent, and then billed for. He said the breakdown included South Pigeon Lake Fire Department, $58,919 (invoices from 2008 to current), Wetaskiwin Rural Fire Department, $6,700 (Invoices from 2016) and Buck Lake/Alder Flats Fire Department, $2,100.00 (Invoices from 2017).

“On November 26, 2018 a meeting was held with the Ermineskin Fire Department, Tom Littlechild, Regional Technical Advisor with the Office of the Fire Commissioner, and Mike Zajac, Director of Emergency Services,” stated the memo.

“Ermineskin Cree Nation was going to contact the Alberta Emergency Management Agency to determine whether a State of Local Emergency (SOLE) was declared. To this date no contact has been made with Mike Zajac since the meeting, Administration is bringing this issue forward for Council’s discussion and direction.”

Zajac said the bill is large and has built up over time. “That’s become significant after a while,” he said to council.

He noted bills owed by Louis Bull First Nation and Samson First Nation had been paid in full.

Reeve Terry Van de Kraats said he felt service should stop after the Ermineskin First Nation was given another two months to pay.

Zajac said the agreement states one month written notice.

County CAO Rod Hawken stated other municipalities encounter similar problems, it’s not unusual. He also repeated that the county met with Ermineskin First Nation and had no results. He added that the county doesn’t want to cancel the mutual aid service but local taxpayers are carrying this debt.

Councilors agreed by resolution to give Ermineskin First Nation 30 days notice of cancelling the mutual aid agreement over the unpaid $67,719.

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