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City of Powell River councillor questions firefighting recovery costs bylaw

CaroleAnn Leishman calls for initiative to not be brought back
TIME CONSUMING: Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman suggested at City of Powell River council’s committee of the whole meeting that a bylaw allowing a company called Fire Marque to recover firefighting costs from insurance policies not be brought back for consideration.

City of Powell River councillor CaroleAnn Leishman has suggested that a bylaw to have a private company recover firefighting costs from insurance companies be quashed.

During the August 31 committee of the whole meeting, councillors reviewed correspondence regarding the fire department cost recovery bylaw, pertaining to using a company called Fire Marque to recover firefighting costs from homeowners’ insurance policies.

Leishman asked about the progress of the proposed bylaw. Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said the committee had previously directed staff to bring back the bylaws to the September 2 council meeting, but given some of the questions and comments that have been heard, staff wanted to run the matter past its legal consultants.

“We’re not done that yet so it’s not on the agenda for [the] September 2 [council meeting],” said Brewer. “Hopefully, we’ll have it later in September at the next council meeting.”

Leishman said the amount of correspondence the city has received, and the amount of personal and private messages she has received with so much concern about this proposed bylaw, is taking up a lot of her time and her energy, and not in a good way.

“I can only imagine it’s taking up a lot of staff time, having to deal with this issue,” added Leishman. “It’s creating a huge amount of uncertainty in the community. I would just like to direct staff right now to not bring back the bylaw because I think this is taking up way too much time and it’s causing a lot of unnecessary uncertainty and mistrust with council.

“I just think this is going to drag on in a negative way. I would like to direct staff not to bring back the bylaw because there are more important things to do. We have really good work to do, and for the nominal amount of money that it is going to supposedly bring forward for training, it does not seem to me like it’s worth it.”

Leishman said the matter has gone back to the legal consultants and staff has to spend more time, so she doesn’t see the point.

“I would like to direct staff right now not to bring back the bylaw because I’m not interested in dragging this along with more negativity in the community,” added Leishman. “I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Councillors and mayor respond

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she understood where Leishman was coming from but it sounded like Leishman was trying to call a vote that belongs at city council.

“You’re basically asking us to vote on the bylaw right now,” said Elliott. “I think it’s not a good process.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said he was not getting inundated with emails or texts. He said he has looked at the correspondence and counted 48 pieces.

“There’s a lot more addresses in Powell River than 48,” said Formosa. “I’ve not heard from the commercial people, who would have the biggest complaint. I think we should just carry on and have a vote at council. If we win, we win, and if we lose, we just carry on.”

Leishman said she didn’t realize it was a win or lose. Formosa said when votes are cast, they are either won or lost.

Councillor George Doubt said he has been reading the correspondence but it’s not the most he’s ever received.

“It’s not an overwhelming amount of work from my point of view to read the emails and to think about them,” said Doubt. “I’m looking forward to it coming to council so we can have a debate that everybody is prepared for about whether we go ahead with it or not. I’d like to hear the answers to the questions that staff is getting.

“I was hoping it would come to the next council meeting and we could make a decision on it but I think it will be appropriate to get it to council as soon as we can when we’re all prepared to debate the issue.”

Leishman said the matter has gone back for a legal opinion. She said some of the questions raised were about the wording of the bylaw, and she asked if those would be addressed by staff, and if some possible amendments would be made to the proposed bylaw. She asked if the matter would go to committee of the whole or to city council.

Brewer said most of the questions from the public were conveyed to the lawyers. He said the matter would likely come back to council with a supplemental report describing any changes that may be made to the bylaw when it’s before council.

Councillors voted to receive the correspondence package.