Robinson user fees to rise 5 percent in 2022 budget

ROBINSON TOWNSHIP – Robinson Township Local Services Board (LSB)’s 2022 budget will see an increase of five percent in user fees. Among the changes in the budget is funds that will support a stipend to be paid to its fire chief.

“At our last board meeting, we came to a consensus that we couldn’t pay the fire chief what he is actually worth,” said Dave Watts at a recent LSB budget meeting. “But we should be paying our current fire chief an amount that is realistic, and to have this in place to attract a new fire chief when Doug (Wismer) retires.”

Karen Noble, treasurer of the LSB said, “I wanted to suggest $5,000.  Regardless of what the fire chief in Little Current, Mindemoya or other communities on the Island make, our (stipend) should be based on our fire chief and what we think we should pay them.”

“We rely on our volunteers, but being the fire chief goes beyond this,” stated John Jagt. “Sometimes what they do is very dangerous. And being the fire chief has a lot of responsibilities. The fire chief is responsible for not only themselves but 16-18 other firefighters with training, paperwork, meetings and many other duties.” 

Mr. Jagt put forward a motion to pay the fire chief $7,500 for 2021-2022.

“I know we pay honorariums toward other things that are done in the township,” said Mr. Watts. “An honorarium of $7,500 being provided to the fire chief makes me comfortable. And it will help attract a new chief when the time comes.” 

“I’d like a sense of what other people at this meeting think about this motion,” said Mr. Watts. 

“I agree,” stated Willie Hunter. “The job entails going way beyond being a volunteer. It is justified.”

“I also agree an honorarium is well worth it,” said Lauren McDonald. Keith Austin concurred as well.

The board was unanimous in voting in favour of an honorarium of $7,500 being provided to fire chief  Doug Wismer for the time period of October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022. 

At the meeting, the board agreed to enter into a contract with Mr. Wismer to carry out snow removal at the Silver Water Community Hall this winter at a rate of $1,000 for the winter season.

At the previous LSB meeting, there was also the suggestion of having an official website for the LSB, with Reg Moore having agreed to do the work to create the site at no charge. 

“I was charged with investigating the viability of having an official website. I met with Reg (Moore) and we talked about what the site would look like. It would give residents a common place to go online for information on township events, happenings, notices, and much more. It would be a common place go for timely information,” said Mr. Watts. 

Mr. Watts noted that Mr. Moore has offered his skills in building the website. The only cost to the township would be $300 for Mr. Moore’s company hosting the website. 

As part of the budget, the board passed a motion to enter into a contract with Mr. Moore for $300 to host the Robinson Township LSB website. It would be renewed annually if it is agreed to continue every year.

Earlier in the meeting the board had also considered estimated expenses and revenues for the year, including for instance, to continue funding the Silver Water recreation centre for the year.

In February 2021, 289 people had been billed $195 as a user fee for being a resident in the township and having a building while 228 landowners had been billed $130 for having a vacant lot.

There was discussion as to whether the user fees should be increased by five or 10 percent this year.

Mr. Hunter said, “if we went with a five percent increase, it would show some restraint by the board and be just short of what we need to raise of about $1,000 (which could be taken out of reserves).”

“With the increasing cost of fuel and food, a lot of people are going from paycheque to paycheque,” said Ms. Noble.

“I would go with a five (percent) increase,” said Mr. Watts.

The board passed a motion for a five percent increase. For those residents who own a dwelling and live in the township year round, the five percent increase would put their user fees at $200. And to those who own vacant lots, the five percent increase would mean a fee of $135 for this year.