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Jan. 28, 2022 | Friday
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NOTL may charge at-fault drivers for collision costs
An accident in NOTL involving multiple vehicles. Work done by the fire department to clean up the collision was charged to the taxpayer. (File)

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake could soon be charging at-fault drivers for the costs associated with a collision.

A report to create a 24-month pilot project to bill at-fault drivers was approved unanimously by councillors during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting. The project would commence in January, if it wins full council approval.

The program, initiated by the NOTL Fire & Emergency Services department, will charge at-fault drivers an hourly rate for the use of any equipment and time associated with a collision. This could include, among other things, cleaning up spilled fluids or using the jaws of life, fire chief Nick Ruller said

It’s a way for the department to recoup some of its costs, he said.

“It’s over 30 years now we’ve been invoicing for motor vehicle collisions on provincial highways. We’re looking to expand that to invoice to recover costs associated with motor vehicle collisions on municipal roads,” Ruller said in an interview Tuesday.

The department handles roughly 150 collisions a year and about 120 of those are on municipal roads, he said.

A staff report on the project listed 14 municipalities across the province that already implement the program and four in the Niagara Region.

Ruller noted the list was not exhaustive.

Most of the municipalities listed charged $488.40 per truck per hour, which is based on the Ministry of Transportation's rate, Ruller said.

In Niagara, the Town of Lincoln charges $812. NOTL is proposing a fee of $800.

But this is subject to change as the proposal goes to the budget committee, Ruller said.

Charging $800 per truck per hour would generate $160,000 to $192,000 in revenue, according to the report. At $488.40, the town could see up to $120,000 in revenue.

About $36,000 of the money would be allocated to pay for a part-time administrative worker to handle the program, the report says.

The report also recommends a $25 administrative fee to offset the costs of a motor vehicle collision database, bringing in up to $3,000 a year in revenue.

Ruller noted that, at the moment, taxpayers are covering the costs associated with a collision.

“We’re trying to look and recover some of those associated costs so that we don’t have the burden being borne by every taxpayer,” Ruller said.

He compared the program to the NOTL Community Centre.

“The initial operating costs and associated costs with the construction are something that we as taxpayers have all contributed to,” he said.

“If we want to rent a room or host an event, we pay a user fee above and beyond the kind of baseline contribution.”

“The cost of operating a fire service is significant. We want to ensure that, where appropriate, the costs associated with providing those services are recovered.”

Coun. Wendy Cheropita encouraged Ruller to look for even more ways to recoup costs. 

"Look at how you might apply this type of program to service calls where you end up servicing a carbon monoxide or fire alarm in someone's home because that's not how this team should be spending their money when they're so tasked as it is," Cheropita said during Monday's meeting.