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.


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.

Just Posted

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Intricate cloth masks with Indigenous design made by Teresa Snow. Facebook/ Masks4Maskwacis
‘Masks 4 Maskwacis’ wins Northern Lights Volunteer Award

The group received recognition for their efforts to support their community during COVID-19.

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21 in Canada. (Government of Canada photo)
Alberta RCMP recognizes National Indigenous Peoples Day 2021

This year, June 21 marks the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples… Continue reading

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Most Read