City council votes to delay decision on Main Street firehall
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Jun 05, 2014 06:00 am
The fate of Airdrie’s Main Street firehall is still hanging in the balance as City council voted to table the decision until Sept. 2.
During a June 2 meeting of council, the options for the possible closure/relocation of the firehall were laid out to Mayor Peter Brown and council by Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) Chief Kevin Weinberger.
The possibility of closing down the firehall has been a hotly contested topic, with residents showing up in droves to council meetings and public open houses to object to the closure.
At an open house at City Hall on March 27, the AFD was able to outline the main concerns from residents as response times into the core of the city and the possible interference from the CP Rail train tracks that run from the north end of the city to the south.
While the Chief and AFD staff took into account all of the concerns of residents, Weinberger stuck to his guns, citing that currently the AFD can’t meet recommended response times in the city’s northwest.
“Response times for 73 calls during 2012 and 2013 to the Williamstown and Reunion areas had an average response time of seven minutes and 13 seconds, 23 seconds longer than the target standard the department strives to achieve,” said Weinberger.
It was a promise made by an alderman at the open house on March 27 that led to council tabling the decision until Sept. 2.
During the open house, Alderman Fred Burley mentioned to residents council would not make a decision during the summer months of July and August, while many people may be on vacation, to allow residents the opportunity to attend the meeting when the decision was rendered.
Burley’s colleagues stood by him when he made the motion to table the decision until after the summer.
“If the wording (from Burley) was that no decision was going to be made until the end of the summer, then I think we should stick to that,” said Brown.
Alderman Darrell Belyk echoed the sentiments of Brown, stating the importance of keeping their word.
“If this was said and is down in writing then I think we ought to stick by it,” said Belyk.
“We strive for transparency and this is a part of that.”
Alderman Allan Hunter also voted in favour of tabling the decision, while making sure it wouldn’t hamper any processes for the AFD.
“I know it was said that no decision will be made during July and August, but today it’s June 2, I feel like we should stand behind our first responders and let them know we’re giving them the go ahead,” said Hunter.
A few residents were on hand to ask questions and voice their concerns over the possible closure of the Main Street hall, including 2013 aldermanic candidate Kevin Hughes, who has been outspoken on the issue.
“I want you to think long-term with this decision,” said Hughes. “I agree that Williamstown needs to be looked at but with the development and growth in that area, in another five years that firehall is going to be too busy to meet response times in the downtown.”
Edgewater resident Bruce Schultz also raised questions as to whether or not the AFD had weighed all of their options, while questioning some of the reasoning behind the decision.
“I understand that in a lot of communities in Canada, fire departments are having difficulty meeting standard response times,” said Schultz. “Do we need Cadillac service? Is there an option for a smaller downtown fire house instead of a full firehall?”
Schultz also asked about the possibility of newer homes having sprinkler systems in them.
“If newer homes being built can be equipped with these systems, then why take a firehall out of the downtown where many of the homes are older and don’t have these systems?” asked Schultz
When the chief concluded his report, he addressed the questions that were raised.
“With regards to response times, we exceed standards with our first truck on scene but not with our full staff,” said Weinberger.
“As far as a smaller hall on Main Street, it’s something we may look at in the future and we may come back into the core. As far as I know, there is no mandate on developers to build homes with sprinkler systems in them and it’s not something that’s being done very often.”
Weinberger’s recommendation to council was that they support the closure of the Main Street firehall upon completion of the Veterans Boulevard location in Williamstown as per the recommendations of the Fire Master Plan, which was presented to council in March 2013.
“This maintains response time standards, the 2014 operating and capital budgets were developed and approved under this assumption,” said Weinberger.
Council voted unanimously in favour of Burley’s motion to table the decision until a Sept. 2 meeting of council.