Donnelly council seeking legal advice on fire service

The Smoky River Emergency Services building in Falher. Costs of providing fire services has municipalities in the Smoky River region concerned. The Village of Donnelly is seeking legal advice re arbitration.

Arbitration being considered as an option

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

The Village of Donnelly council is seeking legal advice regarding the possibility of going to arbitration with the M.D. of Smoky River regarding the Regional Fire Protection Agreement.

Currently, the M.D. provides the service to Donnelly based on a 75-25 split of costs with the M.D. paying the higher cost. The 25 per cent is split among Donnelly, the Village of Girouxville, Town of Falher and Town of McLennan.

During negotiations, the M.D. has said they want a 60-40 per cent split which would mean higher costs for its partners. Donnelly’s rate would double.

Meanwhile, Smoky River Reeve Brochu made it clear once again his council’s stance in a Nov. 10 letter to Donnelly Mayor Myrna Lanctot.

“…we do feel the negotiations regarding the fee schedule…are indeed concluded,” wrote Brochu.

In short, there is no room to negotiate the 60-40 split.

Donnelly council discussed the matter at its Nov. 18 meeting. Lanctot said the first concern was the pumper truck not be removed from the Donnelly Fire Hall.

“It’s kind of a big deal when we made the agreement [five years ago],” said Councillor Aubrey Stenhouse.

Regarding the 60-40 split, Lanctot asked for council’s thoughts.

“Just because we’re all partners doesn’t mean we have to have the same agreement,” said CAO Matthew Ferris.

He added Donnelly should have some say in capital spending decisions, adding if any partner walked away from the agreement, Donnelly should get its capital money back.

Lanctot had other thoughts.

“There needs to be a level to a commitment of service,” she said.

“We all need to be on the same page,” said Stenhouse.

“So what do we do as a council?” asked Mayor Lanctot.

“Try to negotiate, then the next step is arbitration,” said Councillor Kyle Heyn.

Ferris did not oppose arbitration.

“We do have our concerns,” he said. “Find a middle ground that works for us.”

Lanctot suggested perhaps restarting a fire department in Donnelly.

“Is it extreme?” asked Stenhouse.

Lanctot replied negotiations were “extreme” during tough economic times for everyone.

“Our taxpayers are the ones who suffer [with higher fees],” said Lanctot.

Ferris warned council it was a lot of work to start a fire department.

Lanctot favoured arbitration if the M.D. refused to budge.

“I’m in agreement with what Kyle said.”

The motion to get legal advice re arbitration passed unanimously.

Earlier in the meeting, Ferris said there was money in place to fund the arbitration process, although no estimated amount of the cost of the process was cited.

In his letter, Brochu wrote the M.D. recognizes the impact of the extra cost for its partners.

“However, the M.D. can no longer afford to fund the [agreement] at its current requisition calculation.

“The fees proposed in the new agreement are still much higher for M.D. residents [per capita] and it leaves the M.S. solely exposed to any shortfall in projected income and budget overruns.”

The agreement expires Dec. 31. Brochu wrote he hoped a new agreement would be in place by that time.

Share this post