The pending breakup of the Stettler Regional Fire Department was an item added to the County of Stettler council meeting agenda on April 12.
Coun. Justin Stevens brought forward the addition following the Town of Stettler’s recent announcement that they intended to withdraw from the joint fire service.
“I’m very disappointed in the decision to separate into two separate departments,” said Stevens.
“I think it’s divisive … I think we need to take the town at their word and believe them that this is the direction they want to pursue. We need to make the best of the hand that we’ve been dealt.”
Stevens noted that the county has a “responsibility to volunteers and ratepayers” for a smooth transition; but, council would be unable to navigate the transition on its own.
“We need to hire a county (fire) chief as soon as possible,” said Stevens.
Stevens continued that the county should also enter negotiations with the town for the creation of a transition funding agreement and remind them that funding for a third-party negotiator is still on the table.
Coun. Les Stulberg agreed that the town and county needed to go back to the negotiations table, but for differing reasons.
“I would rather stay with the regional fire model,” said Stulberg.
“I would like to see this communication door remain open.”
Stevens ultimately motioned for county administration to send a letter to the town requesting negotiations with a third-party mediator for a regional agreement or a transition agreement, which was carried.
A second motion was also put forward by Stevens, the advertising for the position of a regional fire chief should negotiations of a new regional agreement be unsuccessful.
“We should start looking for a fire chief now,” said Stevens.
“If we do end up going independently, we need someone to guide us through this process. I don’t think it’s an either-or.”
The second motion was also carried.
Also continuing with the transition, Coun. James Nibourg opened the conversation on a new fire hall in the Stettler area.
“I don’t want to be in a position where we are stuck (someplace) that doesn’t work for us,” said Nibourg.
Chief administrative officer Yvette Cassidy recommended negotiating with the town to continue some operations of the hall in Stettler but work on finding “someplace strategically located to support the other three halls” should negotiations not work out.
Nibourg put forward a formal motion for administration to begin working on contingency plans for the fire services split.
Council received an update on the efforts to reopen the Donalda fire hall.
According to Andrew Brysiuk, the director of municipal services, 22 volunteers have been screened and fitness tested to join the Donalda fire hall.
“We’re really excited at the number of volunteers was have in place,” said Brysiuk.
“Now, we’re turning attention to getting them trained for wildfire season.”
Brysiuk also informed council that equipment for the hall is also in the process of being repaired and replaced, as needed, and that quotes for a cascade air-bottle filling system are in the process of being sought.