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M.D. council/administration answers inquiries into fire service decision

Posted on April 27, 2016 by Taber Times

By Greg Price
Taber Times

As M.D. of Taber council and administration addressed its decision to terminate its shared fire service agreement with the Town of Taber at the M.D.’s annual general meeting at the Heritage Inn earlier this month, some of the 43 people in attendance took the chance to have some of their inquiries and concerns answered as the M.D. prepares to offer its new rural fire service in March 2017:

Jamie Calvert
“I was wondering where your new volunteers (for new rural fire service starting March 1, 2017) are coming from for your new department?”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“They’ll be coming from wherever. The town, the M.D. or close proximity to the M.D. We currently have 10 that have expressed interest who have previous experience.”

John Nordquist
“What are you thinking the costs are going to be involved in order to implement this with the new building, a new chief and administration costs?”

M.D. of Taber Director of Corporate Services Bryan Badura
“When we budgeted our costs, we modeled it around what is currently happening with the Vauxhall Regional Service that we share with the Town of Vauxhall. We are budgeting that there will be some additional costs in training as well as equipment. We plan on funding some of that through grant funding to purchase some equipment for this department. We don’t expect to operate until our current contract expires with the Town of Taber at the end of February 2017 which gives us a lot of months to be prepared. Once it becomes operational, we expect it to cost in that $250,000 per year range. And that is our gross costs as well and we expect revenues from responding to calls out to the highways. Not only do we expect it to cost less than our current contract with the town, we are also relying on this service to provide support for our other (fire) departments.”

Marten DeVlieger
“I was under the impression that the M.D. was not going to go after the highway portion (of revenues).”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“We actually have no say on who does the highways, that’s Alberta Transportation that dictates (who goes out). We will make sure our level of service is such that we can (go out to the highways).”

Dr. Norm Chychota
“It seems to me that if you have two fire departments running the show, you are not being effective and it’s cost prohibitive. The Town of Taber and M.D. of Taber should amalgamate the two services and they would be much more effective. Would that be a possibility?”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“I guess the issue we have with that is that of fairness. How do we pay over 50 per cent of our budget to one contracted service and we have four or five others out there that need help and additional assistance? We are looking at the municipality as a whole, what is best for all our residents in the M.D. at a similar price.”

Dr. Norm Chychota
“I enjoy reading the (Reeve) Ramblings in the newspaper. How come there wasn’t something in it regarding this a year ago? I didn’t know anything about this being a ratepayer.”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“A year ago, we were still in negotiations with the town and we had hoped we would be able to come to some agreement.”

Mike Wind
“Every week I get the Taber Times. I’m not pointing the finger at anybody, I’m looking at both parties and they are quibbling over two or three items and the fire department was the last one. We even have councillors suing each other for goodness sake. That’s disturbing. I would really hope, same way or another, when you get this thing done, you go into a locked room and sit down and iron some of this stuff out. You can agree to disagree. You were elected to take care of the M.D. folks, (they) were elected to take care of the town folks, let’s do that. You guys are doing a great job, but maybe stay out of each other’s hair, I’m not sure. That would be my request to you, find a way to resolve some of this nonsense and maybe do not invite the Taber Times.”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“You won’t find too many media comments that come from the M.D. (involving the fire service). We have said all along that we are not going to argue this in the paper, and we’ve publicly stated that. This is something we should sit down in a room and agree on, and not have to worry about the next day being quoted in the paper. That is certainly one of the frustrations. It’s a little bit like a horse I used to have. Every time I’d walk behind it, he would kick me. So I learned to quit walking behind it.”

Len Ross
“I commend you on your wisdom for avoiding the press in the debate. It was obviously a one-sided presentation of information. The respect this council has demonstrated over the years and our M.D. and people of the electorate have been well served. I think though, if there has been fault, the fault is the same misfortune the new NDP government had with Bill 6. It surprised everyone when it was presented and passed. Had it gone to the residents of the M.D. with some opportunity to hear the kinds of things you are telling us tonight (prior), I think you would realize there is a great deal of support for what you could do and realize what you have to do. It’s an essential service, it’s an important one, there is no issue on the table that’s more important than this. I hope somebody is going to bite the bullet and get us into a position where we are looking into a regional fire service under one level of government.”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“The issue that we had, was we found out October 2 that they were not returning to negotiating. December 31, our fire contract expired. We had a short period of time to make some very big decisions. Should we have taken out a half-page article out in the Taber Times explaining this? I don’t know. We chose to agree to disagree and move forward.”

Jamie Calvert
“My main concern is level of service. You have said in your new recruitment manual for your new fire department, you have a 12-kilometre response distance that volunteers can live. What are you expecting for response time?”

M.D. Councillor Bob Wallace
“The hall is only two or three blocks from the other hall. The majority of volunteers that have expressed interest in joining this fire department are within town. There shouldn’t be much difference.”

Jamie Calvert
“You say we are going to be equivalent to the same level of service as Vauxhall has. In emergency calls per year, Taber has 220 per year and Vauxhall has 30 to 40. Grassy Lake, very small, about eight calls per year, Enchant about 10 per year, Hays, maybe five per year. I just want to be clear when we are talking about the other hamlets providing assistance, I am wondering how many people are on those departments that are going to help the M.D. of Taber. Because right now, it’s the Town of Taber that usually provides the hamlets (with help).”

M.D. councillor Bob Wallace
“The same requirements for the level of service in town (as requested by the M.D.), will also be the same level of service for the rural fire service. I have reviewed some of the information (220 calls), and some of it I can’t share with you because it was discussed in an in-camera session through negotiations, and unfortunately, the Municipal Government Act prohibits us from doing that. I can tell you the fire reports go through our council every month, and they average two to three a month with fires that come up (in the M.D.). There are third-party contract fires on the highways on top of that that are less than 100 per year. Following up on those 220 call volumes. Those calls include false alarms in the town as well as medical first response.”

Mic Friend
“You have an RFP deal for 9-1-1 service. Is that going to be a distinctly different 9-1-1 service that currently exists? Is that included in the $250,000 estimate?”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“The dispatch is $23,979 which is what that additional service would be. All we are doing is getting requests. Hopefully, 9-1-1 will stay where it is. All we are doing is trying to get requests to see where other levels are. That is to be determined.”

Marten DeVlieger
“We can go back and forth all day long, it’s done. I look at both sides and I’ve done a lot of volunteering in town, I know personally that town administration and the Town of Taber CAO is a real problem. Was administration a real problem in the negotiations? Councillor to councillor, you guys all get along. But administration is where things happen. Was town administration a big problem where the negotiations fell apart and where all the fighting is? If it is, we need to say that so that the town council can deal with the problem.”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“You know we can’t answer that Marten. All I can say is administration to the town is firmly under the responsibility of town council.”

Joerg Klempnauer
“I think it’s the citizens of Taber that have to step up and say something. It’s not the MD. or the council of the M.D. You guys have understood and are now doing what you were elected to do. It is Taber that has to move here, and understand it’s better to work together, than work against. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. At some point in time, you have to realize the marriage has failed and you better go your own way.”

Reeve Brian Brewin
“Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. We also have to say, we do a lot of things with the town well that we will continue to do. I sit on Highway 3 with the mayor and we work quite well with that. We do recreational things with the town and work quite well. Not everything is negative with the town.”

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