Windsor firefighters standing ground on decision to pull service June 30

Carole Morris-Underhill
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WFD says dispute could be settled if West Hants pays outstanding capital and operating expenses

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 it's time for West Hants to pony up the outstanding funds owed to the volunteer firefighting force so that the two entities may enter mediation on even ground.

Scott Burgess penned a letter to West Hants CAO Cheryl Chislett June 13 that outlined the Windsor Fire Department (WFD) executive's stance.

“As the municipality is aware, requirement of payment of the full amount of arrears to the WFD by West Hants was established by a unanimous vote of our membership as a precondition to entering into mediation to resolve the current impasse and provide a stable framework for future fire service in the areas of West Hants serviced by the WFD,” wrote Burgess.

“We are optimistic that once the full amount of the arrears has been paid this mediation can take place immediately in order to prevent the interruption of fire services.”

Burgess was referencing the operational costs for the past 15 months, as well as the capital funds that were withheld since 2011-12 pending a successful contract negotiation.

As of the end of this month, Burgess said “the total current arrears based on this proposal are $813,556.25” and indicated the WFD proposes “interest upon these amounts” that will be “determined at a later date, perhaps in the context of the proposed mediation.”

The breakdown Burgess provided for the outstanding amounts owing is as follows: 2011-12 – $40,000; 2012-13 – $40,000; 2013-14 – $497,595 Station 1 and $89,250 Station 2 (Vaughan); and 2014-15 – $124,398.75 Station 1 for the first quarter and $22,312.50 Station 2 for the first quarter.

Burgess suggested West Hants’ staff and advisors, the WFD executive and advisors, and Mark Peck, as the representative for the provincial government, meet to “map out the future course of mediation, including the list of issues to be canvassed within the mediation, and a selection of an appropriate mediator to assist the parties.”

He said the WFD executive is willing to meet with West Hants and Peck “at any time to advance this matter” prior to the June 30 deadline.

Burgess said if the outstanding payment issues are resolved, then their action to cease service would no longer be necessary.

Warden Richard Dauphinee, the spokesperson for council, said they had hoped entering into mediation would put the WFD's decision to cease serving the county on the backburner.

“We thought, once we agreed to go in mediation, that that wouldn’t happen, but it appears that he's holding fast. He wants all of his money, which – by the way, there's no contract in place. There hasn't been for four years,” said Dauphinee.

“It's like Councillor Matheson said the other night. You know, we really don't owe any money... Now, in saying that, we're not going to stick anybody for any money, we never have and we appreciate the service we've received.”

Dauphinee stressed that all the WFD has to do to be paid is bring in their list of operational expenses and a detailed capital replacement plan.

“We want to pay (them).”


Financial breakdown

In late May, Jerry Wood, the director of finance for the municipality, discussed the outstanding funding situation between West Hants and the WFD with the Hants Journal.

He stated that all of the funds owing are available, should council instruct him to release them.

“That is set up as a liability so that depending on what happens, that money is still there. If council directs me so, I can certainly pay it out,” said Wood.

In 2011-12, Wood said the municipality paid the WFD $433,100 and an additional $80,000 for Southwest Hants (Station 2). However, council instructed staff to withhold an additional $40,800.

“In 2011-12, the same amount was paid for rural and what was held back was the budget increase that was given to all fire departments,” said Wood, noting council approved an increase for each county-funded fire department that year.

The following fiscal year, 2012-13, another $40,000 was held back.

Then in 2013-14, council changed how they funded the Windsor Fire Department, requiring them to provide receipts for operational expenses. Although they have continued to cover West Hants, the WFD has not been paid since April 2013. They also have not provided a detailed breakdown of expenses. This month, council said the intent behind their April 2013 motion may not have been clear and changed the requirement, noting the WFD does not have to produce the receipts. Rather, they are just required to produce an itemized list in order to receive their outstanding operational expenses. The capital funds are another story altogether, as Dauphinee said council wants to receive a detailed replacement plan so they can budget for future capital expenditures.


Organizations: Windsor Fire Department, Hants Journal, West Hants council

Geographic location: Hants, West Hants, Hants County Windsor Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

    June 17, 2014 - 14:11

    Malcolm the answer to yor statement is YES we will not be sending fire trucks beyond the town limits after June 30-2014 twelve noon.Therefore count your blessings you may need them.

  • Malcolm
    June 17, 2014 - 10:34

    Do you really think WFD would withhold fire service in the county, if not paid by June 30th? Many of the members including the chief have families and friends that live in West Hants. If one of the members family had a fire, do you think they would say no, we cannot put it out.

    • Oh Joy
      June 17, 2014 - 14:48

      Absolutely. As much as I'm sure they hate to do this they have to. 600,000$ short and you think they can just continue to provide service? Especially with Richard Dauphinee saying things like "we don't owe them anything really we didn't have a contract". I've spoken with some veterans of WFD and they said the old executive would've walked out years ago.

  • john
    June 17, 2014 - 08:05

    SOOOO TIREDDDD OF SAYING THE SAME THING. JUST PROVIDE WHAT IS ASKED THEN DONEEEEE. Dauphinee stressed that all the WFD has to do to be paid is bring in their list of operational expenses and a detailed capital replacement plan. “We want to pay (them).”

    • Re:John
      June 17, 2014 - 12:25

      Just a quick question - I've heard several times now that WFD has offered the books to West Hants. What is the difference between the books and what you're asking for? If there is no difference then why is there a problem here?

  • AH
    June 16, 2014 - 15:03

    I think the fact that the Warden repeated Mathesons comments that "technically we don't owe you anything" explains where the problem is. Why do you people vote for this Warden and band of five, term after term. These guys are an irresponsible clique. I like the fact that they want to ensure we know how much is spent and get the value for this money but the approach they used to get to that shows they are incompetent. If something happens due to this childish behavior I think they should be personally and criminally responsible. How can we get these guys thrown out or isn't it time to call a byelection? How many signatures do we need?

  • Jim Crawford
    June 16, 2014 - 11:20

    I truly believed, at one time, we had a very proactive and well informed group of elected officials who employed a very basic and well established common sense approach to managing the affairs of West Hants. During the past months I have attempted to see the value and rational our elected officials are using in their decision making processes regarding the fire service for Falmouth and Thee Mile Plains areas. I have failed to see presented any logic or sound facts to cause me to believe that Windsor Fire Department is unable to provide competent fire services as they have during the past many years. For Richard to say "we owe them" and "we want to pay them" or Randy say, according to Richard, "we don't really owe any money..." creates a clear picture that someone is living in a land of make believe - not reality. It is well past time that Hants West pay our outstanding debt to the WFD immediately then sit down with a mediator and resolve remaining issues. I would challenge both sides to make this mediation a "binding" process. In any event - GET ON WITH IT!

  • Dave Morrison
    June 16, 2014 - 07:29

    So the Warden and his Band of Five have finally had their bluff truly called. In two weeks the WFD will no longer answer calls to the county. Though I do not like the tactic being used; it certainly was forced upon WFD, by certain councillors, by voting to both withhold funding and start up one or two new departments (the brain thrust is not even sure how many are needed). Those decisions were bad enough but now we are being told that the Warden and his Band of Five hasn't even got a contingency plan for fire service come July 1st. These are supposed to be our "leaders of the community"! I wonder what contingency plans have been made for the law suits that will certainly be coming their way once the first house is lost, or even worse death, after the June 30th deadline? It is clear to me they have lost the confidence of the electorate. Maybe it is time for the province to step in and remove this clearly dysfunctional group and appoint some clear thinking individuals until an election is called.

  • jd
    June 15, 2014 - 20:13

    This has got to be the most ridiculous statement i ever heard ''we don't owe anything''. Does this sound like a leader? By gosh, grow up.....

  • Joe Archibald
    June 15, 2014 - 10:14

    Saying they don't owe anything is a slap in the face to every wfd member who has, without said contract, still provided life saving services and put their lives at risk. They have used the service, now pony up. The Warden and anyone who repeats the " we owe them nothing" line should has lost any moral standing. New leadership is the only way forward, time for the Warden and certain councilors to go, now