A recent motion by town Coun. Teri Underhill to have the Ponoka Fire Department services regionalize with Ponoka County was defeated.
The motion was to have the town CAO Albert Flootman to join Ponoka County regional fire services by May 1.
In a 3-3 split vote March 14 during the regular meeting of council — Coun. Tim Falkiner was not in attendance — Mayor Rick Bonnett and councillors Teri Underhill and Carla Prediger voted in favour while councillors Loanna Gulka, Sandra Lyon and Marc Yaworski voted against the motion.
Lyon’s concern was over personnel questions. She suggested that as this decision will affect the town’s budget, council needs to have more information.
From Gulka’s perspective, since council as a whole voted to keep its own fire department, council needs to support the decision. “My understanding is that when council votes, a decision is made, that decision is to then be supported by all of council.”
She suggests this debate has continued on with the same discussion for too long.
Prediger disagreed stating there have been recent challenges that need to be addressed based on events from April 2016. Prediger is referring to the transfer of equipment to Ponoka County and the subsequent investigation that came out of it. Since the release of the report, residents have voiced their concerns in recent town meetings on the issue. “Our community has spoken very loudly for us to re-enter into these discussions.”
“Whether we had a vote back in April, significant events have transpired,” added Prediger.
Underhill added that Fire Chief Jamie Wilkinson stated in the investigation of the transfer of equipment that regional fire services are the “way to go.” In response, Gulka stated she too had made a motion last year to enter into mediation for regional fire services with the county but that was defeated.
That motion was made Feb. 8, 2016, some weeks after the town had already voted in favour of being a stand-alone department.
“To bring a motion for us to have our CAO look into it, I think is due diligence on our part as council,” added Prediger, who reiterated that recent events have changed the situation.
Gulka suggested personnel issues were what came out of the report and that the CAO should deal with them. From Yaworski’s perspective the town department is in a better state now with the work of Fire Chief Jamie Wilkinson. “We have a great fire chief who was put into an absolute storm. He had to clean up a lot. He got it running.”
“I don’t know about the county service,” Yaworski added. “I have no idea. I don’t hear anything about it. I don’t see anything about it in the paper.”
The motion was defeated.
Underhill first made a motion Feb. 14 to suspend fire services but it was tabled pending further information from administration. That motion was eventually defeated during this same meeting where Underhill subsequently made the second motion. That first motion was also defeated.