The Township of Wellesley has opted to stick with the status quo on its policy of charging non-residents for motor vehicle collisions that require a response from the fire department.
Staff was asked to review the policy in March, after the township received a letter from Manning Chiang, a dentist who practices in Wellesley. Chiang was involved in an accident last December and received a bill for $1,400 for the fire department’s response.
Under township policy, residents of the township are not charged for the fire department’s services at accidents. Non-residents passing through the township are charged $350 per hour per emergency vehicle responding to the scene.
Chiang questioned whether the number of vehicles and the time they spent on the scene was necessary, and argued because he owns a business in the township, he should be exempt from the policy.
In rural areas, firefighters are often the first to respond to a collision. The township’s standard response is to send three vehicles: a pumper, a rescue truck and a tanker. If a tiered response is issued by the dispatch centre in Kitchener, all three agencies – police, fire and ambulance – show up.
Fire chief Andrew Lillico said the fire department can’t dictate what services they’ll be providing before they get to the scene.
“It could be medical aid, it could be assisting traffic control to make the scene safe, it could be vehicle extrication, controlling spills of fluids or making the vehicle safe. … Sometimes people don’t look at those services, they just say ‘we didn’t have a fire, so why’s the fire department here?’”
Township reviewed the response policy and decided it was appropriate. The policy was amended to reflect a minimum one-hour charge for each responding vehicle, regardless of how long they spend on the scene.
Lillico said the township charges the Ministry of Transportation rate of $350 per hour per vehicle, which is in line with other municipalities.
“It’s not uncommon,” he said. “In fact, most municipalities that have king’s highways charge the MTO rate. They submit to the Ministry of Transportation for vehicle accidents and then the Ministry of Transportation passes that bill onto insurance companies.”
Lillico said business owners who pay taxes directly to the township will be exempt from the policy, but non-resident business owners who do not pay township taxes (ie lease their business space) will continue to be charged.
The fire department does not charge for response to fire calls. Lillico said the fire department doesn’t want the charge to deter people from calling in an emergency.
“You don’t want to institute a fee that’s going to delay a call or not have somebody call.”