ROBINSON TOWNSHIP – While there were concerns raised that local residents had no input into the Robinson Township Local Services Board (LSB) purchasing a side-by-side vehicle for firefighters to access locations that their fire truck can’t if a fire occurs, and high insurance costs for this vehicle, local residents have voted in favour of paying these costs due to the purchase allowing for enhanced fire protection to these not easy-to-reach locations.
“When do we want to talk about the elephant in the room?” asked Karen Noble, secretary of the Robinson Township LSB at a public meeting June 6.
Tim Mackinlay, LSB chair, pointed out the LSB had bought a Yamaha side-by-side vehicle at a cost of about $21,500. “The plan is to pay this off with donations and we are up over $7,000 so far,” he said, noting there were some other costs involved in the purchase.
“The main issue is insurance,” said Mr. Mackinlay. “In November we proposed that the insurance of the vehicle would cost $2,000 for a year. But when we got a quote from Able Insurance, the quote was $1,744 for four months, about $4,500 for a full year and more than double what we put in our budget. My hope is that we get enough donations that we can pay this.”
The high insurance costs are based on the vehicle being considered a fire fighting vehicle, said Mr. Mackinlay. “If I bought the vehicle for myself and put it in my garage it would probably cost $500-600 a year for insurance.”
“Here we go again with the costs of insurance and the ongoing costs the township has to go through,” said Mr. Mackinlay. He pointed out, “we are exploring having insurance on the buggy for just the fire season and store away the vehicle in the winter.”
Ms. Noble explained that when she contacted NFP Canada, I asked them to find the best quote for insurance. I got 10 quotes but no one would touch insuring the side-by-side alone. “Today, we need to discuss paying $1,744 to get us through to the insurance renewal date.”
Robinson fire chief Doug Wismer told the meeting, “there are 130 places, mainly made up of seasonal residences, that we can’t access with the fire trucks. If we have a fire in one of these locations, we have no way of getting to them with the fire trucks and equipment. Basically, they won’t have fire services without the side by side.”
“If the fire department felt there was a need for this equipment, even with insurance costs being insurance costs, I put faith in the fire department. Safety first,” said Dave Watts.
David Solomon asked if the insurance on the side-by-side is affected by the driving experience of fire fighter drivers.
“We asked Able Insurance about this,” said Ms. Noble. “He didn’t actually say it will drop, but we can ask him. And I asked him if we can do a deductible but this would only save us $25. He said this is the cheapest rate possible. All we can do is keep our (firefighters) driving records clean and maybe at some point the insurance costs will decrease.”
“We sent a number of questions to the insurance company, and they said the main reason for this quote is that as the vehicle is used by the fire department, it is a fire vehicle. Although we’ve never had a claim, our fire team is compared to other firefighting teams, like the fire department for downtown Mississauga,” said Ms. Noble.
Local resident Paul Sorbara said, “I feel this issue is getting close to a vote being taken. In my opinion, that with the purchase of the vehicle and insurance, the public was not consulted. And, we don’t have a cost on what effects this would be on the taxpayers. I want it on record that I will be voting against paying these costs.”
Ms. Noble noted the LSB budget had been sent in November and included $2,000, for instance, and a building to store the side-by-side after it was purchased.
“I will be voting against this motion,” said Mr. Sorbara. “This is the biggest expenditure I’ve seen since I’ve lived here. There was no consultation on this, and the rest of the public should have had a say on it.”
Mr. Mackinlay said it is hoped that most of the costs will be raised in donations. “But there is someone going to cover the costs until donations come in and until we complete fundraising one way or another.”
“The services board won’t have to pay the costs of the purchase,” said Mr. Wismer. “It will be paid for.” He noted firefighters will be asked to help with construction of the building to store the side-by-side vehicle.
“The costs of the purchase will be paid through donations,” said Mr. Mackinlay. “We are grateful for the donations that are coming in. And on the insurance cost, we shouldn’t be fundraising for this, this should be borne by the tax base. If it costs $4,500 year it will lead to a $15 increase on each person’s annual fees.”
Without insurance on the side-by-side vehicle, it can’t be taken off the property and it would mean that 130 residents would not get good fire coverage as it would mean the firefighters wouldn’t be able access these properties. “It would take the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNF) fire teams a minimum of two hours to respond to a fire here and if they send the ground crew it could take as much as four hours,” said Mr. Wismer.
“Without a fire department my (home camp) and proper equipment to fight fires, my insurance costs would definitely increase,” said Keith Austin.
Mr. Solomon said, “notwithstanding the purchase process, we have places that are not accessible for fire trucks. To improve the fire coverage, I would support the additional insurance costs.”
“This will not only provide accessibility for local residents but piece of mind for firefighters as well,” said Donna Solomon.
Other residents also voiced their support in paying the insurance costs.
Mr. Wismer explained that on the purchase of the side by side, “the issue was that we had to purchase this fairly quick, as sales dealers weren’t sure when they would have another vehicle like it available. For coverage this summer, we had to act quickly. There is a terrible demand for this type of vehicle, it is very difficult to get them these days.”
A recorded vote was taken of the meeting and all votes cast were in support of paying Able Insurance $1,744 up to $2,200 for insurance from June 6, 2021 to October 19, 2021 the policy renewal date for the Yamaha side-by-side with all residents in favour, except for one resident.