Windsor and West Hants Fire service Spat Worries Businessman

By Patricia Brooks Arenburg, Business Reporter, Chronicle Herald
Published August 18, 2015 – 5:24pm

IMG_7719Mitch Brison has about 90 mini homes in a retirement village just outside the Windsor town line.

The president and owner of Brison Developments also has room at The Crossing for another 100 mini homes, about 60 single-family homes, 70 semis and two apartment buildings all on that same parcel of land.

But the ongoing spat between the Windsor Fire Department and the Municipality of West Hants is a big concern for him and his potential customers.

“If you’re moving to an area and I’m trying to sell you a house and there’s rumblings that you might not have fire protection, think about it. It’s just plain ridiculous. It means people, business aren’t even going to look at the area,” Brison said in an interview Tuesday.

The municipality voted last week to continue to contract fire services to the town’s fire department for the next 20 months, after which West Hants would set up its own service.

On Monday, the fire department issued a statement saying it expected to use that time to work toward a deal. Without that, the department said it would stop providing fire services to West Hants as of Oct. 23. If the municipality doesn’t pay what’s owed for services from June 1 to Oct. 23, fire services will end on Sept. 30.

West Hants, however, wants to see how the department is spending its money.

“The people that I move here don’t care what the boundary is between Windsor and West Hants, they really don’t. They’re moving to the area,” Brison said.

And they want services like fire protection to be in place when they do, he said.

Safety is an issue, along with insurance coverage for both homeowners and business owners.

Amanda Dean, Atlantic vice-president for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said there’s no need to panic when it comes to coverage in the West Hants area right now.

The availability of fire service is “very important but it’s only one of many, many factors that go into home insurance or business insurance premiums,” she said.

Those factors include things like construction material, location of the building and whether the owner has filed any claims.

In fact, “so many factors go into premium evaluation that there may be no change (to premiums or coverage in this situation) at all,” Dean said.

Other parts of the country have experienced the closure of fire stations and a transfer of services without any issues, she said.

She recommends all home and business owners in the West Hants area — Mount Denson, Falmouth, Three Mile Plains, St. Croix and the area south of Windsor to the Lunenburg County line — contact their insurance agent about the situation to get specifics on their plans.

“It’s certainly not a huge panic,” Dean said.

“Insurers don’t make snap decisions when it comes to things like this because … clearly the right officials are taking a look at what they need to do to provide these services to their customers. Insurers will certainly be keen to learn what that decision is but it’s not going to impact right away, certainly.”

Brison, who has his own beef with the town over a guardrail that blocks what could be a second entrance to The Crossing development, said he thinks the situation has been poorly handled by both sides.

Fire service, he said, has been fine.

“We don’t need West Hants to build a fire station. All’s we need here is co-operation.”

If that can’t happen, the province needs to step in, he said.

“We’re in a have-not spot in a have-not province struggling to run a business here, employ the amount of people that I employ (about 40 to 50 directly during peak season) and put the amount of money — I’ve probably put over $100 million in West Hants in the last 20 years — and to have to fight the way I have to fight with these two councils here to try to do business here? I’ve got rocks in my head.

“My corporate heart is in this area and I want to fight for my area and I want to do whatever I can for my area. But at this point in time, it’s pretty frustrating.”
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