The M.D. of Lesser Slave River may soon be approving a new system of incentives for people willing to serve as volunteer firefighters, or search and rescue members.

The policy will see the volunteer members get a break on their property taxes, if they serve above a certain number of hours during the course of a year.

Regional fire chief Alex Pavcek, making the presentation, told council something they’ve been hearing for years; that recruiting new volunteer firefighters is getting harder all the time.

“It’s a worldwide problem,” Pavcek said, and encouraged council to approve his tax credit incentive program as a way of addressing the shortage.

The program is modeled after one in Coaldale, Alta. Pavcek said it will work on a points system, with credit given to volunteers spending time both training and on calls.

The other side of the program would be a tax credit to businessmen who allow their employees to respond to emergencies during working hours.

The program could cost the M.D. up to $10,000 per year, Pavcek said. It would only be available to volunteers who own property. Renters would not qualify.

Councillor Brad Pearson asked what if the possibility of saving tax money resulted in an overwhelming rush of volunteers. What then?

“I would love it if that would happen,” said Pavcek, but added he doubts if it will.

The tax credit would be good for only one member per family. Pavcek said there are several cases of more than one family member serving in one of the halls, but only one would qualify.

Council accepted the proposal in principle, and asked for a report with more details.

The same proposal was to be made the Town of Slave Lake council. Pavcek sounded confident town council would also support the program.

by Joe McWilliams

April 13, 2023

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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