The County of Stettler will be forming its own fire department within the next year to 18 months after Town of Stettler council gave notice to terminate both the regional fire agreement and regional fire chief agreement it has with the rural municipality at their regular council meeting April 4.
The town council discussed the fire department agreements it has with the County of Stettler in a closed session, then came back into the public meeting to unanimously pass this resolution, according to the draft minutes: “Moved by Councillor (Kurt) Baker that, given the fire protective needs of the Town of Stettler moving forward, the Town of Stettler council approves issuing to the County of Stettler a notice of intent to terminate the regional fire agreement and regional fire chief agreement, and further to cooperate in good faith with the County of Stettler to transition the rural and regional fire service responsibilities, assets and jurisdictional command authorities during the upcoming year to the County of Stettler.
“Further, during a mutually reasonable transitional period, that the Town of Stettler shall continue to support in good faith the County of Stettler through the operation of fire station #1 with the understanding that shared funding acceptable to the town is paramount for on-call stand-by readiness, incident command and reporting, volunteer response and support, operational planning and preparedness, and all other related vehicle and facility operational costs are reimbursed to the Town of Stettler from the County of Stettler.”
Town and county residents are likely curious why the Town of Stettler would split the fire department into, essentially, urban and rural.
Town of Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls stated the fire protection needs of an urban community aren’t necessarily the same as a rural.
“We have recognized that the fire service needs of our community have evolved since the original regional fire agreement was signed in 2005, and that there are fundamental differences in the needs of an urban community versus rural,” stated Mayor Nolls in an April 5 press release.
“We believe that moving in this direction is the best way to strengthen relationships with our community partners and offer the strongest level of fire services to residents.”
County of Stettler Reeve Larry Clarke, who attended the April 4 town council meeting as an observer, confirmed the county will be forming its own fire department now but that residents shouldn’t be concerned about fire protection.
Clarke, in a phone interview April 5, stated the splintering off of the county shouldn’t affect fire protection coverage if all parties hold up their end of the bargain.
Clarke also referred to the town council resolution noting a transition agreement will be in place to ensure there are no gaps in coverage. He noted the County of Stettler will continue to pay Stettler Regional Fire until the county has what it needs in place to take over completely. The reeve noted regional departments will function as usual.
Clarke also noted the county will likely have their own department up and running in 12 to 18 months.
The reeve pointed out the County of Stettler isn’t starting from scratch when it comes to forming its own fire department, as the ratepayers already own fire engines, brush trucks, tanker trucks and lots of other equipment.
“The Stettler fire hall will look a little empty when we pull our equipment out,” said Clarke.
He further noted the County of Stettler, under the current agreement with the town, pays 70 per cent of volunteer firefighter wages, 50 per cent of administration costs and channeled $1.3 million per year into the regional department.
However, the reeve noted splitting the departments will cost taxpayers more money.
“Yes it will…it will cost both municipalities more money,” said Clarke.
He stated the County of Stettler will have to look for a new fire hall and hire its own fire chief to run it. However, Clarke clarified the County of Stettler has existing buildings that may fit the bill.
The reeve added that, during the split, he wanted to ensure the county doesn’t leave the town missing anything and that future mutual aid agreements are developed.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Apr 13, 2023
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