Fire department invoice to stand, rules Tiny council

·3 min read

A Tiny resident feels burned by the way township approached her request to cancel a recent $1,000 fire department invoice.

Kim Tomei, who is now on the line for a cool grand, told MidlandToday she thought the services by the fire department should be free if there's an emergency.

The emergency she was referring to was a gas-line break that happened at her property last year when some driveway repair work was being done.

"I think having a fire department so close to where we live is a selling feature for people looking to buy up there," said Tomei. "And to not be aware that if you have an emergency, you'll be charged that kind of money, it should be made aware to the people who live within that area."

She appealed the invoice to council at its meeting last month. The matter was brought forward to a recent committee of the whole meeting, during which fire Chief Dave Flewelling gave council background and policy information around the situation.

"I have reviewed the incident report and the photos that were taken at the scene," he said at the meeting. "The incident report and photos indicate that there was some machinery onsite. They were utilizing a skid steer type machine to remove dirt from the driveway in preparation for some driveway improvements. I've also reviewed the One Call and Union Gas, both of which recommend the free locate service prior to placing a shovel of any kind or size below the surface of the ground."

As a result, Flewelling said Tomei was invoiced in accordance with municipal fee schedule bylaw.

"More specifically the emergency service fees environmental service calls schedule," he said. "Fees for service at $500 per vehicles for the first hour. On this occasion the fire department responded with a pumper and a tanker, which is consistent with our response protocols and crews were on scene for just over an hour."

But according to Tomei, the issue wasn't about the missing service locater protocol.

"I do believe the work we were doing did not require us to have the property marked," she said, adding she hadn't yet talked to her insurance to see if there was coverage for unforeseen issues and that she was not planning on taking this up with the contractor.

"This person has done work for me personally at my residence, the same work, and we never marked anything here. It wasn't something I thought he should have done. I do believe even if we had the properly marked, we would have it anyway because it wasn't sufficiently underground," said Tomei, adding that the pipe was laid less than two feet underground.

Back at the meeting, council members were in agreement with the invoice.

"I did speak with Ms. Tomei prior to and explained our policy," said Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma. "(I) said that if there was a fee forgiveness being requested she needed to make a human request to make it more about the financial hardship. I wasn't there for the presentation, but I didn't see (the human request) there in our last committee of the whole video.

"I personally believe it's our policy and it's a safety matter," he added. "There is definitely a real cost to everyone in the municipality. I will support the chief's recommendation."

Coun. Gibb Wishart agreed and put his support behind the decision.

"If there'd been a fire somewhere else, the equipment is called away and it would have been inconvenient," he said, "so I'm afraid I'm in favour of the fine."

Tomei said she hadn't yet heard from the township about the decision.

"It's disappointing the way it was handled by the township," she said. "My point of view was not recognized at all. It was just simply, 'you should have marked it.' Quite frankly, that's not even the issue, it's up for discussion right now. If they had been able to see our point ... instead they just blamed us."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,