Pontiac charges for accident response

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Allyson Beauregard

MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – Non-residents involved in car accidents on roads in the Municipality of Pontiac will now be billed for the fire department’s response following the passing of a bylaw at a council meeting on August 14, which came into effect August 20. 

Allyson Beauregard

MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – Non-residents involved in car accidents on roads in the Municipality of Pontiac will now be billed for the fire department’s response following the passing of a bylaw at a council meeting on August 14, which came into effect August 20. 
Under the new bylaw, non-resident motorists involved in accidents will be charged $400/hr for a minimum of three hours as well as a 15% administrative fee on the
total. According to Benedikt Kuhn, Pontiac Director General, the vehicle owner’s insurance company should cover the costs.
“Our firefighters make about $20/hr and we must pay a minimum of three hours per intervention. Five to ten, or more firefighters can respond, so an accident call can easily cost $500-$1000 or more, [without counting] wear and tear on vehicles and equipment. The jaws of life is an expensive tool and needs to replaced periodically,” Kuhn told the Journal.
Kuhn said the fire department receives about 150 calls per year for all sorts of interventions, but at least half are for vehicle accidents, most on Highway 148. “Costs vary, but we estimate the accident calls cost at least $30,000 a year in salaries,” he added.
The costs are often increased when the fire department has to stay to direct traffic, implement detours, or help other emergency responders. “Traffic control and detours are a shared responsibility between the MRC-des-Collines police and the MTQ; we have spoken to both and will be looking at ways to reduce the amount of time our firefighters are performing traffic control before authorities take over,” Kuhn concluded.   
Kuhn said potential changes to reimbursements the municipality receives from the province (SAAQ) for the use of their jaws of life, which could result in lost revenue, motivated them to seek alternate ways to offset the costs associated with accident responses.
“The SAAQ is currently reviewing all reimbursements going back five years and is claiming they may have overpaid – in our opinion, the [criteria] should have been made clear beforehand. It’s a province-wide review and we are unsure of the outcome,” he explained, noting the $25,000 to $30,000 in reimbursements the municipality receives per year could be reduced to less than $15,000 if the SAAQ maintains their interpretation of the rules. The municipality may also have to reimburse the government for any overpayment.
In the MRC Pontiac, according to Julien Gagnon, MRC Fire and Public Safety Coordinator, both Portage-du-Fort and Bryson adopted similar bylaws in 2016. Although the municipalities have a joint fire department with Ile-du-Grand-Calumet, that municipality did not adopt a corresponding bylaw.