Since the announcement in late September there as been a tremendous amount of debate about the changes within the fire departments in the Crowsnest pass.
First of all I feel not enough as been shared with the community, for years here there has been much discussion over the need for four fire departments. Were they all necessary could we get by with three, two, one who knows.
The arguments in favour of four departments given to me were due to the size of the community, and the fact that a lot of volunteers work shift work at the mines it was necessary to have the coverage we do.
The arguments against four departments were the cost of both operating them and the capital costs four fire trucks etc etc.
The two issues that I have heard come up again and again in the last three weeks are the issues of costs and volunteer coverage.
First of all costs, even from the people who felt that we did not need four fire halls, the question as been asked over and over again how does this plan save money. In my time on council the cost of running four fire departments was around $350,000 a year with each department costing anywhere from $75-100,000.
So the question being asked of me is where will the municipality save any money even if you close one, two fire halls. By hiring a full time fire chief, an assistant fire chief, increasing the honorariums and paying an higher rate of pay, this change will increase costs.
The second issue that keeps getting raised is the issue of coverage the new plan calls for ten people to be on call in the community night and day 365 days per year. Is that possible using only volunteers most of whom work a shift schedule. With eighty firemen maybe, how long is that number going to stay at eighty? Acting CAO Robins stated in the Promoter a couple of issues back that they fully expect that number to drop over time, he also stated that this community has about three times the number of firemen for a community of our size.
We have not heard the last of this issue, time will tell both how the new structure works and how cost effective it is. I truly hope the community doesn't receive a lessor service by creating a larger bureaucracy.
This is truly a decisive issue look at the polls on this blog 39% of the voters approve the restructuring 60% don't. The Promoter is at an even higher number opposed 67% and the Herald is pretty well spilt at 50/50.