BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog Council will not revisit the matter of billing for ice rescues before the cold weather returns, after a motion to re-examine the issue was turned down by a narrow margin.
The hot-button issue briefly returned to council chambers this week, after councillors received another letter from Oshawa angler Neil Robbescheuten, in which he requested the township to reconsider the practice. This past January, Mr. Robbescheuten was rescued from Lake Scugog by local firefighters and was subsequently presented an invoice for more than $5,400, as per a recent council direction for Scugog firefighters to request personal information, whenever possible, for billing purposes in ice and water rescues.
Council voted in early March to uphold the bill, citing what several councillors described as a 'lack of personal responsibility' exercised by the angler, who ventured out onto the thinning ice of the lake as temperatures climbed that week.
To date, Mr. Robbescheuten has neither paid the bill nor donated $500 to the Scugog Fire Department in lieu of the fine, as was previously offered by Mayor Chuck Mercier.
In the recent letter, Mr. Robbescheuten outlined several reasons for why he believes the practice should be discontinued, citing 'extenuating circumstances' such as poor weather conditions that arose after he ventured onto the ice, as well as the lack of notice given regarding the billing practice, in which he was the first and to date, only, individual to be invoiced.
Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew, while stating that she would not be in favour of re-examining Mr. Robbescheuten's situation or ice rescue invoicing in general, nonetheless opted to table the motion.
While Mayor Mercier, Ward 2 Councillor John Hancock and Ward 5 Councillor Howard Danson voted to discuss the matter again this week, Councillor Drew, Ward 1 Councillor Larry Corrigan, Ward 3 Councillor Jim Howard and Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten opposed reopening the discussion.
According to council procedure, Mr. Robbescheuten will be informed by letter that the matter will not be discussed for at least six months from the date of this latest council decision, pushing the earliest return of the issue to a mid-November meeting.
During a February council meeting, Scugog Fire Chief Richard Miller outlined the response that took place at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 13, which saw three trucks (with one on standby) and 29 firefighters respond to Mr. Robbecheuten's call.
Firefighters pulled the angler from the mud off of the island's northern shore, after Mr. Robbescheuten, who maintained at the March 4 meeting that ice conditions were "perfect" that day, became disoriented in the incoming fog and wandered toward land, falling through a weak patch of ice and became stuck in the process.
After his rescue, the chief said that Mr. Robbescheuten complied with a request from firefighters for his name and address for billing purposes.
Three days later, he was sent a bill for $5,392.78, covering the costs of trucks and firefighters.
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