Residents on the hook with standalone fire department, figures show

Town looking at $700,000 in new equipment and buyout costs

After town council’s now infamous 4 to 3 decision against a regional fire services agreement with Ponoka County, administration was able to update council on the cost ramifications.

Interim CAO Doug Wright presented the information to council Tuesday, Jan. 26 during its regular meeting, which showed the town will have to pay out Ponoka County $124,000, plus face a potential operations deficit of $83,000, equal approximately to 1.45 per cent in tax increases.

Not included in the calculations was the additional $500,000 accounted in the 2016 interim budget for a new pumper truck. With the new pumper, the costs rise to more than $700,000 including buy out and operations.

Wright said those numbers could change as the year progresses as Ponoka County will pay their portion of operations until the end of April.

Despite the fact that town and county agreement foresees a payout within 60 days, Ponoka County has agreed to extend that period to two years, easing the conditions for the town.

Some of the money may be offset if the town could garner a third party lease on a portion of the Fire Hall. Wright said those details are still in the works. Coun. Loanna Gulka said having the information sooner would have been better for council. She suggested there was a lot of misinformation that confused the matter.

Wright replied that administration was operating under a previous motion by council to come to an agreement with Ponoka County. “Until the meeting on the 12th, I was working on council’s direction for an agreement,” he explained.

What has yet to be determined is the insurance cost of operating a smaller department.

The buyout was detailed in the information Wright provided to council, which shows land assessment and details of equipment. Here are the details of the inventory and payments to each municipality:

* Fire Hall and land: town pays $286,000;

* Other equipment: the town pays $39,000 for bunker gear, breathing apparatus, radios and other equipment.

* 2014 rescue unit: county pays $115,000 plus tools at $40,000;

* Grass fire truck: county pays $17,500;

Provided are inventory details for the Ponoka Fire Department and the East County Regional Fire Department:

Town-owned equipment

* 1989 Tele-Squirt ladder/pumper;

* 1991 rescue pumper;

* Two pickup trucks: Fire Chief vehicle and secondary unit;

* Zodiac rescue boat and community response unit were provided by the province to the town.

County-owned equipment

* 2014 rescue unit;

* 1993 and 2007 pumpers;

* 1997 and 2008 tender trucks;

* Livestock emergency response trailer;

* ATV Wildland firefighting unit.

Information on the units was compiled from the Firestorm report commissioned in 2015 that shows the inventory of units.