Ponoka County’s fire department is looking to add to its fleet with an new rescue engine, while it looks to trim excess from its 2020 operational budget. File photo

Ponoka County’s fire department is looking to add to its fleet with an new rescue engine, while it looks to trim excess from its 2020 operational budget. File photo

Ponoka County fire department reveals budget request for 2020

Includes new rescue engine and finding efficiencies within operations

Ponoka County’s fire department will be spending some capital, while also searching for places to trim its nearly $1 million operational budget.

Fire Chief Dennis Jones talked about both items during his 2020 budget request presentation during council’s Feb. 25 meeting. Council, with both Coun. Bryce Liddle and Doug Weir absent, deferred any decisions until council holds its talks on the full county 2020 budget on March 20.

As for the revenue side, the two stations (west district in Rimbey and east district in Ponoka) saw about $25,000 and $441,000 generated in 2019 — far above the $300,000 estimate made in the 2019 budget.

Meanwhile on the expense side, both stations came in under their estimated budget.

Jones explained the west district wound up nearly $40,000 under its $250,000 estimated expenses, while the east district came in at $628,000 — almost $120,000 below its operations budget.

“We are looking to maintain the $250,000 budget for Rimbey and looking at reducing the east district budget for this by at least $100,000,” said Jones.

“We are confident we can maintain that number for the west side and chop some from the east side. However, some of this depends on call volume and if we get a bad grass fire season, expenses could go up.”

With the $20,000 budgeted for Bashaw to cover the far east side of the county, that puts the estimated overall operating expenses for the department at about $917,000 for 2020.

New unit

With a new tender having been bought and received last year for the east district, a new rescue engine will be purchased this year for the west district.

Council approved the purchase to a maximum of $525,000 — as well as $50,000 for new vehicle extrication tools — with funds to come from the fire equipment capital reserve.

Jones said there remains work to be done on getting bids from various companies for the new unit, which will see a specialized cabin chassis and customized cabinets.

“This is the last major purchase to get us on track for our capital replacement program,” Jones said.

“The unit will replace both the rescue unit that was sold last year and the current Engine 3 that will be near its 20 years of service when the new unit is scheduled to arrive in fall of 2021.”

With this purchase, the next scheduled replacement is slated for 2027, which allows time for the reserve to be replenished.

Insurance

What is somewhat frustrating for the county is the arbitrary limit that insurance underwriters place on equipment, forcing rural municipalities to replace units that — even at 20 years old — are not even close to being worn out.

Jones explained they have to keep meeting that limit otherwise the county’s rating drops and that affects all residents.

“If we drop the rating, everyone takes a hit on their insurance. A downgrade could mean between $100 and $1,000 more for fire insurance,” he said.

“However, depending on the provider, residents who Fire Smart their property can get up to a 15 per cent discount.”

Regardless though, any resident that is more than eight kilometres from a fire hall are classified as unprotected.

“It doesn’t matter how magical a fleet is, they are considered unprotected. We have looked at putting a hall at the north end of Gull Lake that would cover both sides. But, it is impossible to get the roster size (minimum 15) needed to meet the requirement for an insurance rating.”

And unlike other counties in Alberta, Ponoka County doesn’t charge residents when the department shows up.

“If we started billing homeowners, then we would have to tell them since insurers add an extra charge for that,” Jones said.

Yet, Coun. Mark Matejka explained he pays that added charge on his policy.

“There shouldn’t be one,” Jones added.

You either pay for the service through taxes or it gets billed. A nearby county used to charge, but then residents stopped calling. So, a small grass fire ended up wiping out a whole farm and then there was a battle over liability. That led to the resident not paying and the county tacking that amount onto the tax roll.

Both Jones and CAO Charlie Cutforth agreed that is not a road Ponoka County wants to go down.

Jones added that residents should check with their insurer to ensure they are not paying for coverage that isn’t necessary.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo submitted)
Ermineskin citizen graduates vet school, is part of busy practice

Dr. Justin Hodgson is rolling up his sleeves in Meadow Lake, Sask.

Jeffery Kraft. Photo submitted
Family of Jeffery Kraft feels ‘robbed’ after one accused discharged

Family of victim responds to preliminary hearing in homicide case

Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett is trying to enlist support from other municipalities for more equitable provincial funding for small and rural municipalities.
Photo from Town of Ponoka
Ponoka arena closing, Santa Claus Parade officially cancelled

Town of Ponoka announces new COVID-19 restrictions

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

Ridge Meadows RCMP are developing a new strategic plan for the detachment. (Phil McLachlan)
UPDATED: Male wanted for Montana First Nation shooting arrested

Darcy Cattleman located in Conklin, Alta.

The Red Deer Games Foundation has made changes to its grant program as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied)
Red Deer Games Foundation adjusts grant program due to COVID-19 pandemic

The foundation postponed the spring 2020 grant program due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

Most Read