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Council kills further work on fire station moves and closures – for now

UPDATE JUNE 15: Prince Edward County councillors were clear they were not going to further discuss recommendations presented to move or close community fire halls. However, costs and more decisions will need to come back to Shire Hall eventually.

Council, at its committee of the whole meeting Thursday afternoon, voted to discontinue the Emergency Management Group’s (EMG) work on the Fire Optimization plan and station location mapping. The $75,000 study will provide some benefit, however, as the municipality must meet provincial regulations to have a Community Risk Assessment in place by July 2024. A finished product is to come to council at a future date.

Councillors stated EMG’s pre-final report recommendations did not include enough and in-depth discussion with volunteer and full-time firefighters; would result in skyrocketing insurance costs and service risks in several areas of the County that would be outside of the up to 14 minutes acceptable response areas, and they were without necessary extensive public consultation.

Previous to the decision, discussion was held about holding extensive public consultation on the recommendations, but the majority of councillors had already decided they wanted no part of changing, moving and eliminating fire stations they felt would put public safety at risk and could not be considered without a full cost analysis.

“What I see in this report is nothing but spending money, closing halls, building new halls, new equipment and everything else,” said councillor Brad Nieman. “As far as I’m concerned, what we have works.”

Meeting chairman Phil St.-Jean added the preliminary report was helpful to get the conversation started. “But as you’ve heard from all members of council, there’s a greater concern. Yes, (the recommendation) might give most of the coverage but it’s going to eliminate some of the residents. My message to our residents is if we want that full coverage, we have to be prepared to pay for it. There’s a reality there to deliver the services.”

Councillors, and members of the public also spoke to costs to the public for insurance rates from the recommendations that would create newly unprotected areas. (In the mapping below, the green areas are within 14 minutes, all other colours were beyond that time frame, such as 17-20 minutes).

Councillor David Harrison noted his investigation revealed that closing the Cressy fire station could result in 200 to 300 per cent increases in fire insurance costs to residents there.

The final motion will go to council’s next meeting June 27.

Councillor Phil Prinzen, a volunteer firefighter, was concerned “this broad overview was stirring everybody up” and didn’t understand why it was being presented ahead of the final report.

Fire Chief Chad Brown stated the purpose of the report was to provide a high-level understanding of the processes in the standards, and the factual information that is built into generating the (final) report and was really meant for information purposes only. It’s an opportunity to say we’ve done the analysis.”

Brown had stated no options would proceed and no further discussions would occur until council chose to define what it wants for fire protection.

“So in the report, there’s going to be some good; there’s going to be some bad. There’s going to be some options council will need to decide that we fund or do we not fund, and make a change within that level of service.”

Responding to questions from Wellington councillor Corey Engelsdorfer, EMG consultant Dawson stated projected growth of the village had been considered along with other capabilities.

The Wellington fire station, it was noted, is due for upgrades or replacement.

Two members of the audience noted they lived in the area suggested for the new Wellington station (at County Roads 1 and 2), and spoke to poor water availability at the accident-prone intersection.

One, Janet Curran, noted heartfelt thanks to council for its concern expressed at the meeting around the recommendations in the report, and agreed much public consultation would be necessary.

She recommended putting money into upgrading the Wellington station and whatever equipment it needed.

She spoke to up-close and personal experience.

“In 1999 I had a house fire and I’m sorry for this, but I went back inside my house to call 911 on the landline. And by the time I was done with 911, the lights were flashing and they were pulling into my drive.”

She disagreed with a report that recommends moving a functional station from Wellington, where there is water and sewage, to a place “where by August, our wells are on fumes and sulfur and there is no room for septic.”

As noted by councillor Bill Roberts, “Eventually council will have to deal with the choice between effective consolidation… and new major upgrades and investments in County fire and rescue.”

 

Fire station moves and closures recommended by consultants

JUNE 14: Councillors will hear recommendations to relocate the Wellington fire station to the County Roads 1 and 2 area; amalgamate Bloomfield and Milford fire stations to a single Cherry Valley location and the closure of the Ameliasburgh and Cressy stations.

The rationale is stated to be improving response times for Bloomfield and Milford stations, addressing growth and service needs, avoiding costs of maintaining underperforming facilities and avoiding costs of upgrading facilities to confirm to health and safety and building standards.

Council, at its committee of the whole meeting Thursday, is to hear from Phil Dawson, consultant, with Emergency Management Group (with offices in Barrie and Florida) providing community risk assessment, the fire plan and location mapping.

UPDATE NOTE: At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, chairman Phil St. Jean noted a final report with decisions is to be presented to council at a later date.

The projected analysis of Wellington relocated, Cressy and Ameliasburgh removed indicate the main urban areas of the County would see responses from zero to 14 minutes while the darker areas are not all specifically indicated in the mapping presentation for areas including some in Ameliasburgh, Huyck’s Point, Green Point, Cressy and Long Point.

This plan map indicates seven fire stations.

In 2014, following discussion over four years, a 10 fire station plan was approved by council. Two new fire stations were constructed – one in Consecon and one in Picton at the Industrial Park.

The Consecon station replaced fire halls in Hillier and Consecon and the Picton station replaced the Ross Street hall and one on the Heights.

Currently serving PEC residents:
Fire Station 1 at 8 McDonald Drive, Picton

Volunteer stations:
Station 2 Hallowell, 126 County Road 32 (Mallory)
Station 3 Milford, 3080 County Road 10
Station 4 Sophiasburgh – 2771 County Road 5
Station 5 Rossmore – 219 County Road 3
Station 6 Consecon – 14 County Road 29
Station 7 Wellington – 44 Belleville Street
Station 8 Carrying Place – 3819 County Road 3
Station 9 Ameliasburgh – 13 Coleman Street
Station 10 North Marysburgh – 4415 County Road 8

Committee of the Whole meets at Shire Hall Thursday, June 15 at 1 p.m. Members of the public who would like to make comments are encouraged to contact clerks@pecounty.on.ca by noon on Thursday to register.

The report with mapping can be found on the Council agenda, by clicking here.

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  1. ADJ says:

    If the County is that cash strapped and we know it is why not “download”these fire halls back to the wards (townships) like they were before ammalgamation? The most if not all were built before the fiasco thought that “it will be cheaper this way” An increase in fire insurance is a sure thing.
    When will County Council start to think for themselves and stop listening to advisors and consultants…they cost money right?

  2. douglas murphy says:

    I hope my house in South Marysburgh does not burn down while we listen to some one with an office in Barrie and Florida tell us were to replace a fire hall in Milford that was just built about 18 years ago .

  3. ChrisW says:

    I know of one individual who is completing a new build and would be looking at a situation of not being able to get home insurance. At all.

  4. CountyProud says:

    How can a fire station be considered “under performing”? What criteria are used to establish that – poor response time, not enough calls? Strikes me if it is the later, that means the community is doing a good job of managing fire risks. If it is response times then perhaps additional training and professional development is needed for the staff.

    I don’t live in Wellington, however, closing this station when the community is about to experience large growth in terms of homes and accommodations is a head shaker.

    I would like to understand why some areas are not accounted for on this map, why are they left grey.

    And, like many I wonder about the cost of these proposals to the taxpayers, in light of the fact we are also now being asked to “chip in” on Hwy 49 in a “Go Fund Me” style campaign.

    This whole thing doesn’t sit right. Yes, we need to be looking at these things from time to time with an eye to the future as well however, these proposals just don’t make sense to me.

  5. JennyD says:

    Sound like your applying the same needs when planning started in
    2014. Ten years later, that won’t work. Did you notice the growth and expansion? It’s not the same place as it was ten years ago. Are you relying on figures from 2014 or current, and projected future?

  6. kevin says:

    Caution!!! If this council is truly invested in our community safety, and the safety of our firefighters, why is training and equipment not being addressed? The training is limited and minimal, and equipment relied upon by several volunteer stations is outdated or second hand/used. How does that help anyone? Now council is pitching reductions and changes as positive – in reality is this because of budget? Did council forget the size of the county residents has swollen due to development? Has that been considered? Training, equipment and increased service responsibility. How about addressing that first. It’s not sufficient to attract new residents and development while ignoring their needs and safety. By investing in the fire service, firefighters, equipment and trucks, you invest in the safety of the entire community. Let’s be real about this.

  7. Gilles Miramontes says:

    Please! Somebody explain to me how moving the Bloomfield fire station to Cherry Valley will improve response times to Bloomfield. Perhaps another study will be required to demonstrate this.

  8. Susan says:

    That’s the size of the County and has to be taken into account. Can’t provide every emergent service in a couple minutes. Well you could if you hit taxes really bigtime.

  9. Irvin says:

    To put it simply… if South Marysburgh/Milford closes, it would be over a 30 KM response distance from Cherry Valley to Point Traverse. Council will need to look in the mirror.

  10. Fred says:

    So what are the costs to build 2 new stations at Cty Rds 1 & 2 and in Cherry Valley? And what did this report cost?

  11. Dan says:

    Another plan that looks great on paper and but will be net negative for residents.

    From a very quick look, it strikes me that striving for equality in response coverage is totally unsophisticated because it does not take into account the rate at which calls from from specific locations, density and growth.

    I hope council reads this report with a critical lens.

  12. Dianne Colvin says:

    How is this going to affect our taxes? It takes forever for an ambulance to get here now it will be the same for a fire truck. Cressy is a busy area with lots of new builds. Houses with young families. Do we even get a say about this or a chance to vote about it?

  13. Roland Gillespie says:

    Amalgamation has never delivered on its promises. Leave well enough alone. Building new facilities as opposed to upgrading existing ones? Moving a firehall out of an urban setting to serve a rapidly growing community? Are the consultants aware that Wellington is about to double in size? Is this good planning? Good grief!

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