By J.W. Schnarr
An apparent misunderstanding about the costs of Taber’s new fire training centre sparked a discussion at a Protective Services meeting last week.
The committee was updated on the costs, as well as recent developments regarding the project, at their regular meeting on March 11 in Municipal District of Taber council chambers.
Division 5 Coun. Bob Wallace and Division 4 Coun. Ben Elfring, members of the committee representing M.D. council, voiced concerns about the costs involved with the training facility, which they said amounted to $1.4 million.
“Two years ago, this was proposed, and there’s not a lot different I saw from two years ago,” said Wallace. The price tag was $150,000. This one is $1.4 million, you said last fall. How did that get so high?”
Taber Fire Chief Steve Munshaw explained the building itself was $210,000, and the larger amount was due to possible future expansion and purchase of additional land.
“It’s $150,000 an acre for 3.4 acres that the town put in for land,” said Munshaw. “So, as land costs go up, that’s also included. At this phase, with the land costs, and the building costs, and support, the cost came in at just under $298,000, at this point, but the cost came largely through the land which was given by the town.”
Munshaw said the reason for the $1.4 million price tag had to do with future planned phases of the training centre, and the amount represent the total projected cost of the completed facility.
“Often we have to choose between wants and needs,” said Wallace. “And the ability to finance our wants. I’m not a firefighter, but I’m wondering if the Town of Taber and the M.D. can afford a Cadillac, or do we go with a Chevy?”
“Are we getting more than what we really need?” he asked. “Are we asking for more than we really need? And can we afford it? That’s always the bottom line.”
Munshaw said the centre may be a top end “looking” unit, but is actually a lower end facility.
“This is not a concrete structure,” he said. “This does not have thermal vents or any of the other features to it. This is sea cans attached with a concrete floor. It has a safety aspect to make sure personnel are safe.”
He went on to say the centre will fulfill all the needs of local firefighters and will reproduce many of the environments and features fire crews could expect to encounter in the area.
“I believe you are getting an absolutely, really good structure for the $210,000 (cost of buildings),” he said, adding much of the costs were being taken care of through fundraising efforts, grant money, and the Town of Taber.
Taber Mayor Henk De Vlieger said the Taber Charity Auction had raised money for the project and
“We don’t want to keep disappointing, by keeping that money in the bank. They want to see some action,” he said. “And the way we’re doing it, it’s the cheapest way possible.”
Munshaw added $175,000 of the total cost for phase one was being taken care of with donated money.
“We’re putting in $65,000 total for cash,” he said.
De Vlieger said, as a town, the training centre was needed, even if there was no support for the project. He noted the importance of not putting too much strain on the fire fighters themselves.
“We don’t want to burn out our volunteer fire department,” he added. “They all have families.”
Town of Taber Chief Administrative Officer Greg Birch said the centre had been in the planning stages for years before anything was done with it, and no additional funding requests had been made to surrounding communities.
“Where we are is a $210,000 facility with land donated by the town,” he said, adding the town was adding utilities and taking care of development at its own cost. Additionally, the centre falls within a mandate set by the town to become a learning hub in the region.
“We’re looking at ways we can facilitate that goal,” he said. “This is one of the ways we can do it.”
The training centre has now been purchased. Munshaw said everything is in line for an early summer completion date with ground preparation underway and engineers hired.
“We’re shooting for the June mark, and so far we’re looking fairly decent for that.”