By Justin Seward
Cypress County decided not to extend its fire service agreement with the City of Medicine Hat after this year.
The decision came after the county has already paid $364,389.76 to the city for fire services in close-proximity communities such as Desert Blume and Dunmore. Once the agreement expires, the county will put in a request for negotiations for a mutual aid agreement starting Jan. 1, 2018.
After the county’s April 12 meeting, the Fire Service Board felt that if the agreement ended, the county would be able to provide its own exceptional level of emergency services with its own equipment and trucks. The plan would include increasing station response areas and dual responses from Seven Persons, Irvine and Box Springs.
In the near future, a Dunmore fire station would be established, while in the long term a permanent station would be built equipped with training facilities.
“It’s not like we’re abandoning the city,” said county CAO Doug Henderson. “We’re just changing the way we’re doing business and looking to take over fire services as one department for the whole county and then have a number of mutual aid agreements throughout the county, and the one with the city will be very important.” Henderson says there are policies in the current agreement that will switch over to a mutual aid agreement where, in turn, it would be a fee-for-service agreement.
“I think I could agree with that other than the fact they should be working on getting the Dunmore Fire Department up and runnning as soon as possible,” said Coun. Dustin Vossler. “I think that’s a valuable asset we have.”
Coun. Leray Pahl tabled the possibility of Desert Blume and Dunmore still getting fire service from the City of Medicine Hat for a quicker response time.
“I disagree with you there, Leray,” said Vossler. “I believe we have a very good firefighting service and we can provide the adequate fire suppression for those areas. That’s what I understood for the city agreement — it was kind of an ‘all or nothing,’ waiver, so that’s the way we have to go.”
Meanwhile, Coun. Richard Oster elaborated to Pahl’s point of faster service because there were concerned Dunmore residents in attendance. Oster explained there are 20 well trained firefighters that live in close proximity to the Medicine Hat city limits or to a fire response area.
“We’re comfortable with the new members that have come on board,” said Oster. “We’ve always got a rotation but we feel that it’s an ongoing process and we’re always looking for more members. I think Dunmore responds very well and it’s not that the city isn’t going to respond to those places, too. If they’re called out, they’ll show up.”
Dunmore resident Dan Yonkman voiced his displeasure with the decision.
“There’s a lot to learn with the process,” he said. “You can only do so many studies, and somebody’s safety is at risk. It’s unfortunate that those behind a desk, those looking at statistics and numbers would be the driving force behind a major change.
“Council believes that major change won’t happen from something like this, but my belief as a resident of Dunmore is that if you have to make three phone calls to get a fire truck versus one, that’s change.”
Library board members appointed
Council passed a bylaw in February to create its own municipal library board. Cypress County Reeve Darcy Geigle and Coun. Ernest Mudie were elected April 18 by fellow members to fill the two councillor positions on that board.
Irvine residents Charlotte Krupa and Rhonda Pruden were also appointed as the two community members on behalf of the Irvine Community Library. Coun. Alf Balyea threw his name in but was ousted by Geigle and Mudie when it came down to a tally vote.