A proposed fire services bylaw didn’t make it past second reading after Ponoka town council turned it down in a split vote.
Council was presented with the proposed bylaw Tuesday, Aug. 9 during the regular meeting but with two councillors not in attendance, its chance of survival was slim to none. Councillors Marc Yaworski and Tim Falkiner were not at the meeting and with them gone the vote was split 3-2 with councillors Loanna Gulka and Sandra Lyon voting in favour of second reading of the bylaw.
Mayor Rick Bonnett and councillors Carla Prediger and Teri Underhill voted against the bylaw and they were fairly vocal in their thoughts on the changes, which include ways of monitoring and tracking fireworks sales, fire pit size compliance and a fines schedule.
Bonnett said his concern was that this proposed bylaw had already negatively affected businesses in town, stating that two companies stopped selling fireworks altogether based on the proposals. He said he would prefer to wait for provincial regulation to help guide municipalities.
The proposed bylaw was designed with the 2014 Alberta Fire Code in mind and he said the town needed to be on par with those codes.
“We’re not banning the sale of fireworks…our intent is just to be compliant,” said Fire Chief Jamie Wilkinson.
He added that the town is behind already as there was a 2006 Alberta Fire Code.
CAO Albert Flootman said that the purpose is to be as least intrusive as possible on businesses and homeowners but that the town has a quality management plan and approved safety codes in place. The bylaw needs to follow these safety codes. For her part, Gulka suggested council needed to let the fire chief do his work and vote in favour of the bylaw.
“Somehow this doesn’t feel ‘least intrusive,’” replied Prediger.
Another concern for Bonnett is the fines, which lays out a fee schedule based on first, second and third offences. Most first time offences start at $250, then $500 and then $1,000. The larger fines start at $1,000, then $5,000 and finally $10,000.
Those latter fines revolve around the safety of the community such as a person hindering, obstructing or impeding a member of the department from dealing with an incident. If a person falsely represents themselves as a member of the Ponoka Fire Department, at a scene for example, that would also require the larger fine being issued. If a person interfered with access roads, fire hydrants or other systems needed to fight fires, they would face a larger fine.
Bonnett said his hope with these fines is not to be a moneymaker but to be a means of deterrent for wrongdoers.
“This all comes down to compliance,” offered Gulka.
First reading of the bylaw was originally passed in June but with it being defeated in the second, administration will have to wait six months before returning with another proposal.