MORRISBURG – South Dundas council and staff were caught off-guard by a letter read by Councillor Marc St. Pierre at Tues., June 6’s meeting right before they were about to pass the bylaw regulating the South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services.

St. Pierre’s letter, written by himself, begged council to reconsider last month’s decision to remove the rescue boat from the municipality’s level of service.

At the time, fire and emergency services director Cameron Morehouse noted that it would be in the municipality’s best interest to remove all liability from operating a water vessel.

“The rescue boat has been part of our municipality for over 30 years,” read St. Pierre. “Though at times it appears the boat has been used as a rescue towboat, lives have been saved. As a former member of the department, I recall several incidents.”

He then went on to list several calls of service that the boat was required:

“In 1999, one summer evening, a gentleman decided to go fishing. When a thunderstorm and high winds blew in that evening, he did not return home. The department was deployed by the coastguard, and spent several hours that evening and through the night searching. Early in the evening he was rescued by the department, our department, as he was tied up [on an island]. In 2001, three boys capsized a canoe near [Crysler Marina] wearing no life-jackets. When the department arrived in the rescue boat, the boys were clinging onto the canoe for their lives. In 2005, another incident occurred when a speedboat capsized just west of Mariatown. Again, we were deployed by the coastguard for the rescue. One man was rescued, and unfortunately, one man died. In 2013, a woman swimming at the Morrisburg beach decided to swim further out then she should have. Realizing she could not reach the shoreline, she was floating towards the channel. We were called. By the time we arrived, she was already in the channel , but was rescued safe and sound…The OPP, RCMP, and Coastguards were not saving these people, the Morrisburg fire department was.”

He suggested that the marine rescue boat be included in the bylaw, with fleet insurance to cover liability. St. Pierre also mentioned that department members should indicate whether they are dedicated or not to receiving proper training to operate the boat.

The council chamber’s gallery was filled with local firefighters, with one quipping under his breath: “We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t.”

St. Pierre also noted in the letter that having a rescue boat “offers up a level of service that is unique and makes South Dundas stand above other municipalities.”

Mayor Evonne Delegarde said she was caught off-guard by the letter, suggesting that St. Pierre should have offered the letter up as part of a separate deputation. “I need a little bit of time to digest that,” she said.

“I wrote it today, and been thinking about it for a long while,” answered St. Pierre. “I didn’t mean to put anyone on the spot…well, maybe I did want to put you a little on the spot. I want you to really think about this.”

The bylaw has been in the works for more than four months, and discussions have been ongoing with various drafts presented to council.

Council decided to pass the draft bylaw as presented, and revisit the issue of the marine boat service at an upcoming meeting.