Recent negotiations for joint fire services between the town and county of Ponoka appear to have proved fruitful as the two municipalities are now moving forward with a joint agreement.
Details of the closed Oct. 8 meeting on the matter involving the town and the county councils were not divulged, but it is now reported that Ponoka County, in conjunction with the towns of Rimbey and Ponoka will be putting together an advisory committee to create a terms of reference that will guide the municipalities in the future.
“We are very pleased,” said Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth in a phone interview.
“It’s terrific that we can come together as one community to serve the residents in the best way possible.”
Getting to an agreement with town councillors took some discussion.
Town Coun. Loanna Gulka took issue with the motion presented by Coun. Carla Prediger during the town’s regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 13. She felt Mayor Rick Bonnett and Reeve Paul McLauchlin should have written a motion together that was worded exactly the same. “I have a very hard time moving ahead with this if we’re not doing what we discussed.”
To clarify, Bonnett said the goal for both groups is essentially the same: to develop an advisory committee in conjunction with Rimbey, Ponoka and county fire chiefs. The advisory committee will put together a succinct terms of reference for all three municipalities to be eventually approved.
The topic of a county fire chief was part of the agenda of county council’s Oct. 13 meeting, where CAO Charlie Cutforth provided a tentative timeline for the process that was contingent on the town’s approval of the agreement. At that time, Cutforth stated 23 applications had been received for the position and a shortlist of four had been drawn up for interviews.
For her part, Gulka was concerned at the town council meeting that the county had not passed any motion in regards to a fire services agreement. However, Bonnett again said that after the closed Oct. 8 meeting, the two municipalities agreed to move forward with an agreement, the motion does not necessarily delineate how that will look. “We don’t know what the advisory committee will do.”
Coun. Marc Yaworski agreed with the mayor adding that each municipality will appoint members for the advisory committee, details from the committee will help councils understand how the agreement will operate, he added.
“We’re giving them regional collaboration money as well,” added Bonnett, “to try and set up the order.”
Coun. Tim Falkiner attempted to delay the decision by putting forward a motion to table the decision, stating he would like more information. That motion was defeated, however, and council eventually voted 4-3 in favour of moving forward with councillors Falkiner, Sandra Lyon and Gulka against the move.
Cutforth later clarified that county council did not put forward a motion as there was already one in the books to work on regional fire services. After hearing concerns from town councillors he added that the county expects to put forward a similar motion for the next meeting.
Ponoka County perspective
Ponoka County administration was pleased to hear that the town had passed the agreement and is now moving forward to quickly complete the process to hire an individual before the end of October.
“Our original intent was to conduct those interviews before the end of next week, and that is still our plan, but it may change slightly given the availability of those on the committee to conduct the interviews,” Cutforth added.
“The hope is still to decide and then formally announce the new hire at (county’s) next council meeting on Oct. 27.”
While the hiring is now approved, Cutforth explained there is still work to be done on drafting a more formal agreement with the Town of Ponoka, but he and the county council remain pleased with what has been accomplished to date.
He added that the the Summer Village of Parkland Beach will also be part of the terms of reference as established by the formal agreement.