Fire chief makes pitch for replacement of breathing equipment
Aug. 14, 2018 meeting
Town council was back in session after almost a month off. The agenda covered a variety of topics, from cannabis regulations to the future of Sunset Place to equipment replacement for the fire department.
Fire chief Jamie Coutts came before council with a report on the replacement of breathing units (SCBA) used by firefighters, as well as water plant, MRC and pool staff when dealing with chemicals. These things are expensive to buy, expensive to maintain and are becoming unreliable. There’s a chance to save about $150,000, Coutts said, by replacing the works with a new set. This would start the town on a 15-year replacement plan on a homogenous set of equipment, which would be advantageous for various reasons (including parts replacement and training).
The difficulty is that making such a move is outside the current budget, which calls for $80,000 per year over 10 years for gradual replacement.
Coutts presented a few scenarios. One proposes a lease program at $7,880 per month, which over the seven-year period of the lease would pretty much cover the $661,000 total cost for the 38 units. Another scenario had a lower per-month rate, with a $54,000 buy-out at the end.
Councillor Brice Ferguson – always keen to find less-expensive ways of doing things – asked Coutts what it would cost to repair the existing equipment. Coutts didn’t have a firm figure, but he said the parts are “super expensive.” But it’s more a case of the units becoming unreliable. Bottom line, Coutts said, if the risk of failure is too high, he’s not going to send his people into dangerous situations.
Ferguson pressed his point.
“Can you live with what you’ve got for another five or six years?”
“I don’t think we can,” said Coutts.
Councillor Darin Busk asked if the equipment needing replacement was just in town or in all the fire halls in the region. Just the town, said Coutts. The M.D. already replaced all the SCBA ‘air packs’ at once, (nine years ago), on the 15-year plan, and it’s working.
“I’m in favour of the motion,” said Busk.
Mayor Tyler Warman was too.
“I don’t love spending $7,800 a month,” he said. “But these guys have to breathe.”
Council voted 5 – 1 in favour of the first option, the seven-year lease at $7,880 per month. Councillor Ferguson’s was the ‘no’ vote.
A working group on homelessness has been established, Garry Roth, the town’s director of community services told council. This was done at a July 4 meeting organized by the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. Attending were representatives from the Friendship Centre, the town, the RCMP, Community Futures, probation and AHS addictions.
“Much work is still needed,” Roth said in his written report. He said Haylie Millard, the town’s FCSS coordinator, would continue to attend on behalf of the town. The group plans to meet on the fourth Thursday of every month.
“There’s a lot of public concern out there,” noted mayor Warman.
That big gravel pad on 6th Ave. SW that once housed emergency trailers has some sort of future, but it’s unclear what it will be. Council discussed some possibilities, including use as a fairground, or a mobile home park.
It has been suggested, council heard, that the site would be a good place to hold the Riverboat Daze fair, as the site west of the Cornerstone shopping centre has its drawbacks.
It wouldn’t be as good as the Phoenix site (across Hwy. 88) and there might not be enough parking. And if it was only used for a week a year it wouldn’t be enough to justify it, said mayor Warman.
Another possibility is to seek expressions of interest from developers. This was done once before, Skrynyk noted, but the cost of extending 6th Ave. was a killer. That’s since been done, so it might work better this time.
Council made no decision, instead asking admin to come back with some sort of long-term vision for the property.
Councillor Joy McGregor brought up creek bank erosion next to the paved trail near Roland Michener School. She said the bank is now very close to the trail at one point and wanted to bring it to the attention of administration.
Councillor Julie Brandle asked (again) about the schedule for fixing the two CN crossing bumps where the rails were raised last year. Acting CAO Laurie Skrynyk said her understanding was that it would be in the “very near future.”
Procedure on user fees
The town’s procedure on how it charges fees was in need of some tweaking, and a tweaked version was in front of council.
For example, the wording on when and how a 35 per cent discount on ice rental kicks in for tournaments needed clearing up. It was being applied inconsistently and therefore confusingly. The intent was (and is) that after 16 hours at the regular rate, the discount applies.
What to discuss with ministers
Council will get a chance this fall to meet with government ministers at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Convention. The question before council was which ministers they think it would be useful to see, so as to book spots. Also to be prepared.
Mayor Warman’s view was that it’s better for council to identify major issues and then seek interviews with the appropriate ministers, rather than booking meetings and then trying to figure out what to talk about.
With that in mind, council went over the list of available ministers and matched them up with topics. For example, with Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman they hope to bring up homelessness, an ambulance facility, mental health beds and medical transportation. With the Minister of Environment they’d like to talk about creek bank stabilization and the beach.
Tax relief turn-down
Council dealt with a request from the owners of the Highway Motor Inn for a waiver of penalties on unpaid property taxes. The owner (or one of the owners) promised in a letter to pay the outstanding tax amount in four installments, but was hoping to keep it at that.
However, councillors were not receptive to the idea.
“We don’t do it for others,” said mayor Warman.
“Ditto,” said councillor Brandle. “We’ve had other hotels ask when the economy changed and we weren’t in favour then so why would we now?”
Council defeated a motion to grant the waiver.