Town council has agreed on a new strategy to try to get more GNWT funding to pay for operation and maintenance expenses for highway rescue and ground ambulance services outside municipal boundaries.
At council’s April 10 meeting, Coun. Vince McKay proposed a motion that Hay River negotiate an annual fee for providing emergency services to a GNWT asset – the highways – outside of town boundaries.
“I think there should be a simple negotiation for the town to charge for the service,” said McKay. “We do it with everything else we provide.”
However, he noted that, when it comes to providing emergency services outside of municipal boundaries on a GNWT asset, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) tells the town to get more from the client – the insurance coverage of individuals or companies involved in accidents.
“That to me is not an answer,” the councillor said. “And quite honestly the way MACA has treated this, the way MACA has treated us, I’m just tired of them pushing us around.”
McKay noted there has also been a new minister named for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.
“Now the new excuse is going to be they have to get up to date on it,” he predicted.
Coun. Keith Dohey supported the motion.
“For me, the frustrating part of all this is that this has been going around the same tree for years,” he said. “There’s always an excuse.”
Dohey said the issue is not that complicated.
“I’m personally getting really tired of the excuses and the non-action,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Donna Lee Jungkind agreed O&M dollars should be available from the GNWT on a regular recurring basis.
“We’ve had this conversation over and over again,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that doesn’t agree.”
Only Coun. Steve Anderson voted against the motion, explaining he would prefer the town go to the GNWT and express its frustrations.
“I think we need to add more to this if we’re going to put this motion forward in my opinion,” he said. “Just to say that we want to sit down and negotiate, that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Ross Potter, the director of protective services, noted the town received $31,000 from the GNWT this year as a subsidy towards providing ground ambulance/highway rescue services.
“This is the first time we’ve been given an amount of money that didn’t have stipulations of how we had to spend it,” he said. “We could actually use it for O&M and that type of thing. So I think we’re moving slowly in the right direction.”
The GNWT is currently conducting a study on funding highway rescue/ground ambulance services.
“We are charging enough money (to clients),” said Potter. “We aren’t losing money when we do a response on ground ambulance highway rescue, but then again we are supplying services to the Government of the Northwest Territories that really they should be paying for one way or another, in my opinion. Is $31,000 a year enough, I honestly don’t think so.”
Potter said about $130,000 a year would probably take care of O&M for highway rescue and ground ambulance services.