File photo

Ponoka saves money in fire services delivery

County fire service answered total of 102 calls in town

The Town of Ponoka saved money in its fire services contract with Ponoka County.

Just shy of $84,000, that was the overall cost of fire responses for the town for nearly 10 months.

The contract between the town and county budgeted for $210,000 annually — $35,000 quarterly, plus a capital improvement contribution of $70,000. With the latter capital contribution, the town paid out $154,000.

It isn’t known how much the town spent operating its own fire service for the first two months of 2018.

However, figures found in the town’s 2018 budget show council approved fire department expenses of $350,000 — which includes salaries and benefits. The budget also included $31,000 in revenue.

Call volume

Ponoka County Regional Fire Chief Dennis Jones spoke on the number of responses the county department made in town after it took over at town council’s regular meeting on Jan. 22.

There were a total of 102 calls. Of those, 12 involved structure fires to go along with four grass or rubbish blazes and nine motor vehicle incidents. Firefighters also attended 38 false alarms plus provided assistance to police, ambulance and the public in 39 cases.

Jones explained the fact there are so many false alarms is disheartening and the department is looking into ways of lowering that figure, especially considering there were another 77 within the county.

“It’s quite a sizeable chunk (of the overall calls). We are working on that throughout (the service area),” he stated.

“We are going to get a bit more serious about sending out letters.”

The town’s fire protection bylaw outlines that upon the third false alarm to an address will result in a written warning to be followed possibly by fines — $100 for the next call, the next one $200 and $300 for each subsequent call.

“We don’t want to do that, but it seems like unless there is some sort of financial impact, they don’t want to make changes,” he added.

Town management changes

The town will now be managed through two sections instead of four and will be operated under two general managers and one director.

Sandra Lund is the new general manager of corporate services, while Tim Schmidt is the new general manager of planning and infrastructure.

Corporate services will also now oversee town administrative staff along with the finance, communications, human resources and technology services departments — all of which have their own manager.

Meanwhile, Planning and Infrastructure includes oversight of public works and each department also has its own manager.

Community Services — formerly known as parks and recreation — will remain on its own for the time being, with a director overseeing the managers of the arena and the pool.

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