Angler Neil Robbescheuten returned to council chambers this Monday (Dec. 2) to once again appeal the bill from the Scugog Fire Department following his Jan. 13 rescue from the mud off of the northern shore of Scugog Island. Mr. Robbescheuten, who previously appeared before council on March 4 to appeal the bill, stated that although he has reconsidered some of his actions on the lake since the incident (such as venturing out alone), he refuses to pay the bill "in principle" due to it being "ethically and morally wrong." While Mr. Robbescheuten still contended that the ice he was fishing on was safe (despite spring-like temperatures in the area that day) it was a thick fog that caused him to become disoriented and wander onto thin ice, which he fell through to become stuck in the mud.
Following the rescue call, which brought police, EMS and 29 firefighters to the scene, Mr. Robbescheuten was asked for his name and address, later receiving the bill in the mail.
Similar to the March 4 discussion, councillors showed little sympathy to Mr. Robbescheuten’s plight and questioned many of his actions that day as well as his staunch refusal to pay the bill. An offer to make a $500 charitable donation in lieu of paying the bill - as was previously discussed in March - was also shot down by council.
Mr. Robbescheuten again stated that he believes the billing practice will deter calls to 911. However, Chief Miller clarified that the invoice was for a fire department service fee, as opposed to a 911 fee, as Mr. Robbescheuten said multiple times during the presentation. The chief also added that in discussion with other area fire chiefs, including Oshawa’s Steve Meringer, no incidents have been recorded where victims of an emergency were hesitant to call for help out of fear of receiving a hefty bill.
Following the presentation and discussion, council opted to not hear another appeal and to continue its pursuit of the unpaid bill, which will go to collections if necessary. Scugog CAO Bev Hendry said that as most unpaid fees for service in the municipality are collected through property tax bills, a collection agency would be required - a first for Scugog - as Mr. Robbescheuten resides outside of the township.