Bristol’s Hope not impressed with fire fee increase

Andrew Robinson
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Harbour Grace bumps up charge to unincorporated community

Some consider the Town of Harbour Grace’s move to once again increase the fee charged to Bristol’s Hope residents for fire protection services a form of punishment.

Every resident down here feels the same; that it’s nothing more than an attack on us because we don’t come under their taxation. — Richard Johnson

That’s what the chairman for the Bristol’s Hope Development Association is hearing from many fellow residents after learning the town voted last week to increase the fee from $75 to $92.

“Every resident down here feels the same; that it’s nothing more than an attack on us because we don’t come under their taxation,” Richard Johnson told The Compass late last week.

At last Wednesday’s council meeting, Coun. Pat Haire introduced a motion to increase the fire protection fee, which is now the same for residents of Bristol’s Hope as it is for folks in Harbour Grace.

“With all the housing (development) that’s going on down there, this is an increased fire load,” Haire said. “It costs the Town of Harbour Grace a lot to send fire trucks down there, because you have to be trucking back-and-forth to get the water and everything like that. And most any time you went down there, you had damage to either tires or hoses or something like that, so there’s an extra cost.”

Several councillors, including Gordon Stone, spoke out in favour of Haire’s motion.

“If you’re going to get the service, you’ve got to help pay for it,” he said. “You can’t expect to be subsidized.”

“Towns like Bristol’s Hope need to understand that if they want the services, then they have to pay for them the premium that’s paid by the residents of the towns that provide those (services), and there aren’t any freebies,” added Coun. Hayward Blake.

Johnson contends this problem could have been avoided if Harbour Grace elected to let its volunteer fire department look after the collection of fees from Bristol’s Hope, as it did for many years prior to 2015.

“For X-number of years, we had a great working relationship between the fire department and residents of this community,” Johnson said. “Each year the fire department would come down here on a specific date, they would drop off a letter stating what they are looking for the coming year, and they would follow up, come back in a week or two to collect it. There was never, ever an issue with regards to that mode of delivery for invoice and collection.”

Not all residents aware of fee

According to Johnson, after the town took over collecting the fee, flyers were left at the community mailboxes. He noted that not all residents have received notice of what they owe the town, as some still get their mail at post offices in Harbour Grace and Carbonear. Over two-dozen homes in the community have been vacant since late last fall due to residents either vacationing elsewhere or only using their property in Bristol’s Hope as summer homes.

There are approximately 130 properties in Bristol’s Hope, and Johnson believes 49 have paid the fee so far.

Johnson sees further evidence of the municipality being unfair to Bristol’s Hope residents through the new 2016 tax structure. Residential building permits in Harbour Grace now cost $0.20 per square foot. For unincorporated areas outside the municipal boundary, an extra $250 fee is charged on top of that.

“What for? These are the things this town is doing, and they’re putting the people of Bristol’s Hope, they’re putting their backs against the wall and antagonizing people,” said Johnson.


'Eastern Waste Management could bill unincorporated areas for fire protection'

'Amalgamation with no consent'

When the town was considering increasing the fee last fall to $100, the development associated arranged to meet with Mayor Terry Barnes and the former town manager. That discussion convinced the town to lower the increase to $75. No such discussion took place prior to Wednesday’s council meeting.

“They don’t even have the courtesy to call down here themselves, the councillors, the mayor,” said Johnson. “He knows where I am. He’s called down here before once to ask me something. I don’t think it’s the way to do business.”

Last Wednesday’s motion was approved by all council members excluding one — Coun. Kathy Tetford.

“My issue with it is it started out last year at $50. Then it went to $100. Then it went back to $75, and now it’s going back to $92, with us sitting on council,” she said.

Organizations: Hope Development Association, The Compass

Geographic location: Bristol, Harbour Grace, Carbonear

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Recent comments

  • JED
    March 17, 2016 - 08:12

    I know a lot a people in Bristol hope and all good , reasonable people so insults shouldn,t even be a part of this .Having said that if it is only $92.00 for fire protection I don,t think that,s asking too much, I myself went from $1100.00 a year in 2012 to $1600.00 a year this year, I do get garbage collection , property and water taxand snow clearing. HGFD do put their life on the line for us, they raise a lot of money themselves and I for one got no problem paying for it.STOP THE INSULTS BOYS ,good people in Bristol hope.

  • Tom Mullins
    March 17, 2016 - 00:00

    People should start reading the Municipalities Act. The Town of Harbour Grace is under no obligation to provide service to anyone. If they do they can't bill individual houses. They're supposed to bill the Association responsible for the area. If someone doesn't pay it's their problem, not the town that provides the service. They have to contract the service while entering into an agreement.

  • Scott Thomas
    March 15, 2016 - 20:39

    Mr.Observer I am a cabin owner of Gunners pond and I understand you know very little of what you speak we the Gunners Pond crowd as you call us do pay FIRE PROTECTION GARBAGE COLLECTION SNOW CLEARING AND ROAD MAINTANCE so I think you should do better research before you speak and maybe have GUTS enough to sign your own name instead of hiding as mr observer not very OBSERVANT!

    • Mr. Observer
      March 16, 2016 - 15:22

      We Newfs have two things, “face, and an apparent uncanny ability to tell half-truths”… Yes, FIRE PROTECTION seems to be available, after years of apparent shaming, and nothing being paid for years and years. Now, for a nominal fee, basically, a stipend, so it seems, Carbonear covers you off. It might be noted, however, that not all Carbonear residents are happy with agreeing to send our fire resources into Gunner’s Pond. It is an expensive journey to make, while seemingly leaving Carbonear tax paying residents somewhat open, if another fire was to happen simultaneously back in the town of Carbonear. Some are of the opinion that the Town may have either unwillingly or willingly created such a mess by granting people, in there, permission to have year round residents, at the expense of having regulated building development take place within the appropriate zoning areas of the Town. As for ROAD MAINTENANCE, again, you seem to be piggy-backing on the tax paying residents of Carbonear, as you, apparently, want to use the Town’s heavy equipment, so I understand, to grade the roads etc etc…, and again, for an apparent nominal fee, or nominal hourly rate…whatever… As for GARBAGE COLLECTION… well, well, well… What face!... so it seems, apparently, over the years, some extended family members within the Town seem to have taken on an extra garbage bin in their yard for road side collection… now, why would that be so? ha, ha, ha… I have also heard remarks to the effect that garbage bins provided by the Town at such places as the “Town Lookout”… sometimes mysteriously, become extremely overflowing… "to put it mildly"… and, of course, one seems to recognize a constant repeat of the same faces at the Community Waste Site… “the old dump”… Now, why would that be? Look, the message is simple… Pay your fair share… Amen…

    • Mr. Observer
      March 16, 2016 - 15:39

      In respect to name signing... Who I am is not the issue at hand... I am just simply and freely expressing my opinion on the subject. Why, you want to know? You want to kill my dog? Bully my children? Threaten me? You want to shoot the messenger? I am not interested in who you are. I do not want to know your name. I am just interested in your opinion. I will judge for myself whether it has merit or not ... regardless of who you are...

  • Tom Mullins
    March 15, 2016 - 13:03

    It's an issue of fairness. Why should residents in Harbour Grace or Carbonear or anywhere else be FORCED to pay municipal taxes? Eveyone knows municipalities waste money. Need I go further than these two towns? However, residents are FORCED to put up with it because the provincial government hasn't got the guts to crack down on them. Unincorporated areas should be FORCED to pay property taxes like they do in every other province. Under the analogy used by people of Bristol's Hope and other places no town councils should exist and all services like fire departments, rec facilities, snowclearing and whatever would be paid for out of basic income tax. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea either, considering the amount of money they waste. However, that's not the way it works. If the provincial government refuses to address this issue of unfair taxation in this province in the next budget, people in municipalities that pay property taxes, especially in St. John's, and the larger areas should march on the Confederation Building and burn it to the ground.

    • Stacey Moriarty
      March 15, 2016 - 17:17

      Tom, with all due respect, I'm not sure what you mean by "Under the analogy used by people of Bristol's Hope and other places no town councils should exist and all services like fire departments, rec facilities, snowclearing and whatever would be paid for out of basic income tax." Who are these people using this 'analogy'? People in Bristol's Hope don't expect to get services for nothing. We pay for what we use. The issue at hand has been the way these changes in fees have been communicated to us. I personally agree...we should pay the same for these services as the people living in the community providing the service. Assuming that you live in a municipality, would you expect your council to let you know about tax changes in some official way? We had to hear it by reading through the online council meeting minutes ourselves and through articles in this publication.

    • Tom Mullins
      March 16, 2016 - 20:26

      No, My issue is that EVERYONE should be in a county government where everyone pays the same rate. The current model does not work an it isn't fair. I believe most people do pay their fees but there is always someone who refuses and there is no recourse to collect that money. If you live in Harbour Grace or Carbonear, council can seize your property for non payment. Most people in Gunners Pond pay their fees but they have to pay extra to clear snow and maintain the road. Bristol's Hope, Freshwater, Perry's Cove, Port de Grave do not and there is no one forcing them to.

    • Mr. Observer
      March 18, 2016 - 08:32

      I agree absolutely with you, but the part of burning the Confed. building to the ground is a little crazy... I would not go that far... You have to haul back on that one, old man...

  • JOEM
    March 15, 2016 - 07:11

    Easy to fix all of this. Become an incorporated town and get your own fire department. That would be to easy, and then you would have to pay taxes like everyone else.

  • Stacey Moriarty
    March 14, 2016 - 22:47

    I put my name to these comments because as a resident of Bristol’s Hope I welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues at hand with anyone who is willing to identify themselves as well. There is so much misinformation out there regarding this whole situation that clouds peoples' judgement. First of all, while we don't pay municipal taxes, we do get an invoice from Eastern Waste Management for garbage collection every year (which comes with a curbside recycling program that Hr. Grace doesn't yet have in place), which I promptly and gladly pay. I pay provincial income tax and that helps pay for snow clearing services and the odd bit of maintenance on the road I live on that belongs to the province. Many others in NL live with this same situation but I don't hear anyone complaining that, for example, people living along the Trinity Bay South highway (a road I commute to work on) don't pay a town council to plow it. When it comes to fire protection fees, I'm one of those reported 49 residents with my money paid, or at least what I was asked to pay last fall...$75. So I take issue with being labelled a cheapskate or a complainer. I don't expect to receive anything for nothing. I realize what it costs to run a fire department. I have friends who are members of the HGVFB and we have residents of Bristol's Hope who are also members. Why too many people in our community haven't paid their fees is their business and there's little I can do about it, but I will protect my investment. In my opinion, this whole issue of fire protection fees has turned into a political issue that could’ve been avoided and an opportunity for some to complain about us supposed "freeloaders" in unincorporated areas. But if you're among those doing the complaining, take a step back and think about it. If we pay for the essentials out of pocket...garbage pick-up, road maintenance, fire protection (not to mention that we all invested in well/septic systems at $10-15 K per household), why would we want to be amalgamated into a community that can offer nothing more? If you chose live in a municipality, you did so knowing that taxes would be a way of life...fair enough. If Bristol's Hope were to vote to join Hr. Grace, what would we receive that we don't already pay for? The town certainly won't collect enough in tax dollars to pave our badly deteriorating main roads and definitely won't be providing us with water and sewer services...that cost alone would be astronomical. We have people living in our community who grew up in Hr. Grace, Carbonear and well beyond. Did we all move here to evade municipal taxes? Certainly not. I for one saw a chance to raise my family in a quiet area among people I grew up with and close to services I need. But I pay for what I need and live without some things. For example, I’ve gotten pretty good at dodging the potholes in our community…sort of like slalom skiing. But I don’t complain. When it comes to the matter at hand, we need to determine a couple of things. First, what is the proper rate for fire protection? Councillor Tetford highlighted an important point in her reasoning for voting against the raise from $75 to $92. Council could've raised the fee from $50 to $100 but chose to go with a rate of $75 that was negotiated with representatives from Bristol's Hope, long before it was made public that Hr. Grace residents pay $90+. Didn’t Council know what it cost each household in their town to provide fire protection before it agreed on a lower fee for Bristol’s Hope? Did taxpayers in HG know how much they paid for fire protection? Is this cost itemized on their tax invoices? Should they be upset with their Council for agreeing on a discount to an unincorporated area? Second, and perhaps more importantly, why are so many people in Bristol's Hope not paying their fees? I don't know if the fire brigade has had 100% success in collecting our fees in the past, but it would appear that since the Town has taken over the task of collecting, that success has gone down significantly or we probably wouldn't be talking about it. So if what worked before worked better than the present method of collection (and if collecting an appropriate amount of money is the only concern here), why not go back to that method and see what happens? At the end of the day, what I think we need here is a little cooperation between both sides in the issue and the development of a resolution that works for all concerned. People in Bristol's Hope are not interested in amalgamation with Hr. Grace and, as this newspaper has reported in the past, their Council's attempts at getting that process off the ground have been stopped cold by officials at the provincial Municipal Affairs level who have stated that forced amalgamation is not currently their policy (read the embedded article above). So, with amalgamation off table, maybe we need to look at what positive partnerships we can maintain. We have residents of Bristol's Hope who spend money in Hr. Grace daily, work and own businesses in the town, and use and pay fees for things like minor hockey and soccer. My kids and many others go to St. Francis and support that institution and the great work they do in any way we can. What we don't need are the continued verbal shots being fired up and down over Thomey's Plain. What we need is face-to-face, calm and rational discussion that doesn't flow through any third party and lead to opinions that do nothing to solve the issue at hand and only lead to misguided accusations from people who don’t know all the facts.

  • Mr. Observer
    March 14, 2016 - 15:03

    A message to "observe this"... By "your reasoning", all us people who work year round, are paying twice the load... we are paying once for the services provided in our own Town of Hr. Grace, and then, places like Bristol's Hope come along, and ask for a hand-out from taxes out of my pay check, with plowing your roads, and providing you with fire service etc. I am getting hit twice... One from Hr. Grace, and a 2nd. time from you bunch in places like Bristol's Hope. Why don't we all move to Bristol's Hope? A free for all for everybody... however, it doesn't work like that... No free lunch, unless, of course, you are a municipal, provincial or federal ... politician... The Gunner's Pond crowd are another bunch, as is Gaden's Mash, both in Carbonear, as is Freshwater, as is Port de Grave, "slippery skipper country." One of the RICHEST towns in Canada per population! Yet, they pay apparently NOTHING, so it seems... paving, snow plowing, etc etc... it all comes out of the provincial treasury... Are there any municipal tax bills sent to people in Port de Grave?... I don't think so! We all know who is freeloading and who is not... Time to pay up! It appears that it is no longer your "right" to scab of your friendly next door neighbors...

  • Pedal right through the firewall
    March 14, 2016 - 11:46

    What a joke. Tax them like their neighbors a stones throw away in Carbonear or Hr. Grace. You obviously don't know how good you got it right now.

  • Chebucto
    March 13, 2016 - 22:08

    What is going on down there ??? Non-stop craziness in Spanaird's Bay, Bay Roberts, Carbonear, Harbour Grace...

  • gord
    March 13, 2016 - 21:41

    Complaining about paying $92 in order to ensure your property has fire services. What a bunch of cheapskates. I say stop providing the service.

  • Resident
    March 13, 2016 - 14:53

    Why can't we avail of Carbonear's fire department's protection? Is it because of our proximity to harbour grace? I HATE the thought that we are associated with Harbour Grace for anything at all.

  • Tax Payer
    March 13, 2016 - 14:06

    How dare these people complain about a few dollars when they don't pay any taxes at all!

  • Tom Mullins
    March 13, 2016 - 12:32

    They should part of the town of Harbour Grace; then they could pay the same as everyone else. If they're too tight to pay the fire fee they can burn.

  • joe
    March 13, 2016 - 11:42

    come on just pay your way stop complaining

  • Mr. Observer
    March 13, 2016 - 09:12

    We newfs have some face... But the face buddy portrays in this story takes the cake.... Those who have not paid are "freeloaders" and have gotten so use to it that they now think it is their :right" to have fire protection and have others pay for it. It is bad enough that we the :taxpayers" plow their roads, and pay to pave them, and maintain all the other infra structure for their town... No shame... What face... You should also have to pay property tax like the rest of us! Freeloaders! "49 have paid the fee so far. Johnson sees further evidence of the municipality [Hr. Grace] being unfair to Bristol’s Hope “Every resident down here feels the same; that it’s nothing more than an attack on us." It is no attack. It is an attempt to make you stop free loading of the rest of us...

    • observe this
      March 14, 2016 - 13:11

      Huh? "freeloaders"? By your reasoning there are many freeloaders in Harbour Grace. It's a town with very high unemployment, who supports them? People like me, that's who. Those of us that work all year round. Where did you get the money to buy your fire equipment, did you raise all the funds yourselves or did a big chunk come from the provincial government, again paid for by "freeloaders" like me that work year round? Where do you think municipal funding comes from, the tax base in your town or provincial funding paid for by all working people in the province even those living in places like Bristol's Hope? Does Harbour Grace plan on building water/sewer infrastructure at Bristol's Hope or does your town expect the people of that community to pay for their own service, like they do now, while subsidizing people in your town with their tax dollars? Don't call other people "freeloaders" until you're able to pay your own way on your own dime. Strong arming & insulting your neighbours does nothing for Harbour Grace's image but presents a very good argument from the people living at Bristol's Hope to steer clear of Harbour Grace & with good reason.

    • observe lol
      March 15, 2016 - 05:27

      observe this, you do not know everyone in Harbour Grace, a lot of people there have homes, nice ones at that (which they work hard for). There are freeloaders everywhere.Just because you have some agenda and feel but hurt over this issue, you want others to jump on your diluted bandwagon....get a point...or better yet a life.