County of Wetaskiwin tweaks policy for collecting unpaid firefighting bills

Unpaid firefighting fees can be added to tax bill after certain court process

County of Wetaskiwin council finalized the policy they’ll use to pursue unpaid fire bills, during their general council meeting Mar. 14.

A memo was presented by Director of Emergency Services Mike Zajac regarding a county policy which outlines how the municipality could attempt to collect an unpaid firefighting services bill.

“In 2004, the Payment for Unpaid Fire Protection Charges to the Fire Contractor/Department Policy #23.1.1 was created,” stated Zajac in his report to council.

“Policy #23.1.1 is a Policy which establishes a standard for payment of unpaid Fire Protection Charges to the Fire Contractor or Fire Department.

“At the February 26, 2019 Council General meeting, discussion ensued on the proposed report to rescind Policy #23.1.1 and the decision was to amend the Policy to include the possible methods that may be used to collect outstanding fire charges as per the Fire Services Bylaw.”

The proposed policy stated, “The Fire Departments or Fire Contractors attempt to collect outstanding fire charges for a period of thirty (30) days. If the amount is still outstanding following the thirty (30) days, the following methods may be used to collect outstanding charges as per the Fire Services Bylaw:

“Small Debts Court (Civil) action may be is pursued and a judgment in favor of the Fire Service is received.

“Collections Agency action may be pursued.

“Writ of Enforcement action may be pursued after a Certificate of Judgment is received and filed (through the Small Debts Court-Civil Action process).”

It’s been pointed out at past council meetings that the value of fire damage to property and the fees charged by fire departments for their services are two separate costs that property owners must contend with.

Zajac said that unpaid fees can be added to a property owner’s tax bill once the county has gone to civil claims court and obtained a notice of default to collect on the writ of enforcement.

Councilors approved the revised policy.

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