Municipal District of Taber council has announced it will initiate a ‘Rural Taber’ fire service in the Taber area to serve Division 1 (southwest of Taber), Division 2 (Southeast of Taber), Division 4 (Northeast of Taber) and Division 3 (Grassy Lake and Area) (during daytime hours) beginning March 1, 2017.
During 2015 negotiations for a new fire agreement with the Town of Taber, it resulted in a signed agreement. Despite this, the M.D. of Taber believes negotiations were not successful in establishing an agreement which is acceptable to the Municipal District of Taber for the long term.
“The long-standing agreement that existed prior to 2016 was based upon a partnership model with the M.D. of Taber contributing significantly to annual operating costs, as well as to the purchase and maintenance of shared equipment. Additionally the expired agreement had provided the ability for M.D. council input into the annual operating and capital budget of the town fire department,” said Brian Brewin, reeve for the M.D. of Taber. “In our view, this arrangement was successful, as it provided the M.D. of Taber an excellent fire service, and created the ability for Taber to have a significantly more capable fire department than a town its size normally would have had. The old agreement has been replaced with a new contract which provides for no input by the M.D. into budgeting or policy development. It is our belief the new contract does not provide for the level of accountability we expect for a service as critical as a fire service. As such the M.D. has tendered the required one-year notice to the Town of Taber that the fire contract will be terminated Feb. 28, 2017, and a new service operated by the M.D. will commence March 1, 2017 in the rural Taber area.”
Deputy Reeve Dwight Tolton added the M.D. attempted to provide alternatives other than the single option that was presented to them, but any further progress was to no avail in negotiations.
“Late last year, the M.D. of Taber received an ultimatum from the Town of Taber which closed the door to further negotiations, and placed before us a single option which we had no recourse but to take. The M.D. negotiators proposed many varying alternatives which would have provided the M.D. of Taber meaningful input and a measure of accountability, however each proposal was rejected in turn by the town. In the end, the only alternative we had was to sign the contract proposed by the town and begin planning to establish a service operated by the M.D.,” said Tolton.
M.D. council assures its ratepayers that the new fire service set to be put in place in 2017 will not have cost overruns compared to the funding that has been attributed to current agreements.
“The new fire service that will be established by the M.D. of Taber will be cost neutral to M.D. of Taber ratepayers. The $352,238.37 budget allocated for 2017 to be paid to the town under the former fire services contract will exceed the budgetary requirements for the new service,” said Brewin.
A full time fire chief for the new service will be hired, and will additionally serve as the ‘deputy regional fire chief’ for the M.D. of Taber.
It will be under a newly established “Regional Fire Chief” position that will be filled by Vauxhall Regional Fire Chief Brian Schafer, in addition to his current duties as Vauxhall Regional Fire Authority Fire Chief and EMS Co-ordinator.
The two full-time fire chiefs will work co-operatively with the three M.D. of Taber hamlet fire chiefs by providing administrative and training support for each department as requested. Additionally, the M.D. of Taber regional fire chiefs will enhance fire safety education and fire safety codes inspection within the municipality, in addition to administering the Municipal Emergency Plan and co-ordination of regional mutual aid agreements with neighbouring municipalities.
“The M.D. of Taber council extends its appreciation to all of the volunteer fire fighters who have and continue to serve the citizens of the municipality. We salute those who volunteer their time to help their friends and neighbours. We particularly extend our thanks to the Town of Taber fire volunteers for their years of service to our municipality,” said Brewin.
The M.D. of Taber invites and welcomes any individual interested in volunteering for the new fire service. A ‘Request for Proposal’ process has been initiated for 9-1-1 Fire Dispatch Services which will serve the five regional M.D. of Taber fire departments beginning March 1, 2017, which will be required as a result of the termination of the Taber Fire Service Contract.
The new Rural Taber Fire Department will join the three hamlet fire departments in Hays, Grassy Lake and Enchant operated by the M.D., as well as the Vauxhall Regional Fire Authority Fire Department which is operated in partnership with the Town of Vauxhall.
Within the M.D. of Taber currently, there are 56 volunteer fire fighters operating 20 fire apparatus from four locations within the municipality. In 2016, the net fire budget for the four M.D. of Taber volunteer fire departments was $335,000.