Behr Integrated Solutions made a presentation to the Village of Innisfree yesterday after completing a review and compiling recommendations for or against regionalization of fire services for the County of Minburn, Town of Vegreville, Village of Mannville, and Village of Innisfree.
The company examined different options for regionalization including a) independent fire departments, b) one formal agreement, c) partial regionalization, or d) regional commission.
“We believe the best possible outcome would be would be c) with the integration with the County of Minburn creating a partnership with the villages of Mannville and Innisfree and separate agreement with the Town of Vegreville -understanding they would maintain their identity and their autonomy to a degree,” said Jeff Carlisle.
“County Chief, Mike Fundytus has provided exceptional leadership. Some areas have quite a bit of conflict, but here there is a fair amount of working relationships already in place.”
The purpose of identifying a regional fire service model was to focus on fiscal responsibility in order to create services that are more streamlined.
Throughout the process, they reviewed existing means of delivery, consulted community partners, evaluated efficiencies and potential enhancements, as well as consulted elected officials, considered population and activity with in each area, and went on to calculate staffing, equipment vehicles and apparatus and replacement cycles.
They held a workshop in Vegreville and interviews before making both community and department specific considerations.
“If you choose to go down the road to regionlization, governance is a key factor,” said Carlisle.
“Medical response is a big part of it, and many areas outside municipalities are considered remote and don’t meet standard response times.”
He said they currently have informal regionalization, and benefits would include shared service including administration, training.
“In a lot of ways you have some pavement laid towards what a regional system would look like. Key components of efficient and effective governance framework would include joint hiring, purchasing, planning boards, etc.”
Challenges included that the municipalities value fire services and would want to maintain some of their identity. As well, with potential regionalization, the Town of Vegreville or the County of Minburn would have to be the managing entity.
The highest cost option would be d) a regional commission and it would also be challenging to implement.
Of a dozen recommendations, the largest was that the County of Minburn and municipal partners initiate a broad consultation and communication process with the view to transitioning to a partial regionalization governance structure, while setting aside funds for the County of Minburn for additional staff of approximately $100,000 for a Deputy Chief of Operations and training, as well as $56,000 for a Financial/Administration Assistant.
Other recommendations included establishing a bulk purchasing agreement with the Town of Vegreville, initiating joint recruitment and joint training, centralizing dispatch services to create cleaner communication between departments (Vegreville currently uses Strathcona while the others use East Central), and to coordinate benchmark data for emergency response services.
Project manager, Isaac Commandante thanked everyone for their participation.
“It’s very important to ensure that our fire department remains in our community, and to have the overall regionalization will better our community in some ways,” said CAO Brooke Magosse.
“That they would keep their own identity is great because even though they are volunteers, our firefighters take ownership in their job,” said Mayor Deborah McMann.