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Ponoka County council pleased with fire services budget

2019 budget presented to council include some higher operational costs

Some on Ponoka County council are pleased with what they saw in the 2019 budget projections for its fire department.

Regional Fire Chief Dennis Jones presented the operational and capital budgets at council’s Jan. 8 meeting, with overall revenue estimated at $315,000 compared to expenses of slightly more than $1.34 million.

The Ponoka County Regional Fire Department — made up of East (Ponoka) and West (Rimbey) districts — came in about $6,000 under its 2018 budget of around $2.13 million. That budget did include major capital expenses of the east district hall expansion and the purchase of a new engine that is due to arrive this year.

“We took in about $75,000 more in revenue than we thought for 2018 and we are very happy with the way things turned out on the expense side,” said Jones.

He added a big focus for the coming year was mitigating the rise is some expenditure areas through adjustments in other costs, while continuing to outfit firefighters and equipment to meet the needs of residents.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin was pleased with the report.

“When I look at operating costs, now that the dust has cleared, the story is a good story,” he said.

The 2019 budget highlights include conservative revenue projections for both districts.

For the west, it’s estimated to take in about $35,000, which is just a few hundred dollars less than what was generated in 2018. The majority of that 2018 money — nearly $28,000 — was a result of highway incident calls.

On the east side, the projected revenue is $280,000 for the year with more than half of that figure coming from the Town of Ponoka for the delivery of fire services — a $70,000 capital contribution and an expected $80,000 to pay for actual responses.

Meanwhile on the expense side of the equation, there are some costs that are rising.

That includes an anticipated rise of as much as $15,000 to dispatching fees — part of the increase is due to the east district’s expanded coverage for the town — as well as repairs and maintenance of equipment, which will see $12,000 spent on replacement batteries for the department’s digital radios and a bump up of $15,000 to take that section’s budget to $45,000.

Additionally, there will be $15,000 spent to outfit various trucks with radios capable of communicating over the province-wide AFRRCS radio system as well as $10,000 each on the engine and brush truck it got from the town in the transfer last March.

Further improvements to the east district hall — $150,000 for work on the floor along with new pavement outside — plus a small bump in salaries, benefits and administration round out the list of higher expenditures.

Jones has just one big capital purchase planned for 2019 — a new water tender for $325,000 expected to be placed at the east district with one of the current tenders moving west as a replacement.

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