June 16th, 2024

City, county ink fire deal

By Collin Gallant on July 4, 2018.

Cypress County's Dunmore fire station has been operating since earlier this year, and will now be the primary agency responding to emergencies directly south of Medicine Hat. The two jurisdiction's respective councils are voting to approach a joint fire services agreement.--NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GALLANT

Medicine Hat News

The City of Medicine Hat and Cypress county have a new fire service agreement after 18 months of negotiations, during which time a new county fire station was created and a response map redrawn.

City councillors on Tuesday endorsed a new agreement, which like previous pacts, sees city fire crews and equipment available for emergencies in the region, and vice versa when city crews need assistance.

However, a new annual retainer formula will be in place with the city while Cypress County begins taking the lead on accidents and fires in the near region from its new fire Station in Dunmore.

From 2006 to 2017, the county paid for firefighting service based on a per-capita formula, but has signalled that its new fire master plan would require a new deal.

That led to heated debates in Dunmore with elected officials arguing the county should take a greater lead in protective services, and that the resulting cost savings would help pay for the creation of a new department to service hamlets near the city.

Fees paid by the county are now expected to fall by only about $100,000 per year next year in the partly retroactive three-year agreement. Fees are projected to be $286,300 for 2019, and then $73,000 for 2020.

City administrators say changes in the contract will result in about $100,000 in lower revenue but also lower costs in 2019. New projections will be needed as the 2019-2022 department’s budget is now being developed.

The county’s council endorsed the deal June 19 with a 6-3 vote. Those in favour, including Ward Robin Kurpjuweit (Longfellow) felt the transition period was welcome.

Councillors Dustin Vossler (Seven Persons), a major backer of the new station, Darcy Geigle (Walsh) and Ernest Mudie (Elkwater), felt the expense was still too great considering the time and expense of setting up the new station.

The new response agreement involves areas directly south of the city, and would now see county crews be the first responders, though Medicine Hat Fire Service would be on call.

The boundaries are generally Highway 41A, Township Road 120, Range roads 50 and 70, including Veinerville, Dunmore and Desert Blume. The boundaries extend to include quarter sections adjacent to the roadways, or one-half mile. The northern boundary is either Medicine Hat city limits or the South Saskatchewan River.

Outside that area, call-outs would be handled and charged on an “per-incident basis.”

Those costs typically involve paying Medicine Hat overtime rates since firefighters are called in to backfill crews on calls outside the city.

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