The Town of Stettler and County of Stettler announced they have reached an agreement on fire services and will not be splitting the existing department up after all, rather tweaking it a bit to address urban and rural demands. The announcement was made in a press release June 29.
“The County of Stettler and the Town of Stettler fire mediation discussions have resulted in reaching a mutually acceptable framework for the benefit of both the County and Town of Stettler,” stated the joint press release.
“The county and town will to continue to support a joint regional fire department together. The county will begin making preparations to recruit a new county fire chief, with the town maintaining a town fire chief.
“Together, the town and county will employ a new manager of regional fire services who will supervise, coordinate and support the town and county fire chiefs, and make recommendations to each municipality’s chief administrative officers,” it added.
In the spring the County of Stettler at public meetings mentioned concerns councillors and the public had about rural firefighting. On April 5 the Town of Stettler released the following statement: “Following a unanimous motion carried at the April 4, 2023 regular meeting of council, the Town of Stettler will commence a transition from the regional fire agreement and regional fire chief agreement with the County of Stettler No. 6, with rural and regional fire service responsibilities, assets, and jurisdictional command authorities transferring to the County of Stettler.”
County of Stettler Reeve Larry Clarke stated he was very pleased to hear the regional agreement will be updated rather than dissolved. “I think it’s really good news,” said Clarke by phone June 30.
Clarke noted after the town announced the regional agreement would be dissolved, a mediation process was begun involving town and county staff and councillors, along with a provincial government mediator. Clarke stated the mediation went very well, especially when it reached the point where the two councils met exclusively.
Clarke stated the county was always in favour of partnering in a single Stettler fire department. He did point out, however, the County of Stettler contributed the majority of funding in the regional fire services agreement and further noted the county also has three other fire halls that contribute to that. The reeve pointed out County of Stettler residents own a big portion of the Stettler fire hall.
Looking at the newly proposed regional fire services manager the reeve noted that manager will report to the two municipal CAOs. The County of Stettler has committed to hiring its own rural fire chief as well. The reeve stated both town and county fire chiefs plus the regional manager will work out of the Stettler fire hall with both municipal chiefs reporting to the new regional manager.
Clarke stated more information about the revised regional fire services agreement is coming and the county plans to hold public events to get more information out to the public.
The reeve noted hiring a rural fire chief will ensure rural fire services get the attention they need. “It’ll put that representation out to those areas,” he added.
Town of Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls stated the change in tone over dissolving the regional fire services agreement came about from negotiation. “We were able to make it work for everybody,” said the mayor in a phone call June 30.
The mayor stated that the Town of Stettler wanted to modernize the fire services agreement with the County of Stettler as firefighting has changed over the years and essentially the message about dissolving the fire agreement meant urban and rural firefighting sometime demand different things.
Nolls also acknowledged the importance of the mediation, as it gave both town and county councillors a chance to look at the other municipality’s needs.
The mayor stated he wanted to point out no more firefighting equipment would have been needed in any event as both town and county have all the apparatus they need.
Mayor Nolls stated the new regional manager will help with the heavy call volume that the Stettler Fire Department is coping with and having both urban and rural arms of the department gives each community the focus they need.
“It was a way to acknowledge how we’re different,” said Nolls. “It should make (fire services) more accessible for everybody.”
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 30, 2023