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Thursday , 3 December 2020

BRFA operations get new home base; new site purchase at $3.2M

The Town and M.D. of Bonnyville have confirmed that Fire Station 5 is on the move to the vacant Kopala building just west of town, along with all emergency operations including ambulance response and 911 dispatch.

The decision was prompted as the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority said they were reaching capacity at their ambulance hall and 911dispatch centres, while local leaders have hinted about the need for a long-term plan.

The M.D. of Bonnyville purchased the building at 46213 Township Road 612 and surrounding land for roughly $3.2 million, and both Reeve Greg Sawchuk and Mayor Gene Sobolewski touted the savings for local taxpayers to buy this building, instead of constructing a new one.

“When the topic of discussion came up with the Fire Authority board about issues we were having over at where the ambulances were stored, where 911 was working out of, knowing that both of those places were under pressure, we were starting to look at other opportunities,” said Sawchuk.

“If we were looking at putting up a new BRFA of a building to house everybody, we were going to be probably in excess of the $20 million mark. This building, we’ve got into for just over $3 million.”

Administration staff will move into the new building first and over the course of the next several months, the transition will begin, with a timeline of August 2021 suggested to be settled in.

“I think it’s a critical next step,” said Mayor Sobolewski.

“I remember reading about materials in 1996, when the authority was formed and the rationale. And I think it puts us in a very good position and moving forward for the next 25 years. It’ll come as a bit of a change to some people, but the savings to the taxpayers, both the town and the M.D. is incredible.”

Fire chief Jay Melvin says this additional space will allow also for the expansion of 911 services required by the federal government for the “next generation” which will allow for video, text, and other ways to share media with RCMP.

“It just seems like the right time to consolidate all these resources under one roof, we all work together anyway, we’re all out on the scene, we’re all tied to an emergency. Now, we’ll all be physically under one roof,” said Melvin.

M.D. council made the motion to purchase the property at a special meeting on August 31, and was funded from the M.D.’s Cash Reserves.

The M.D. plans to take possession of the building by mid-November, with work on the new facility to start shortly after.

There has also been discussions about building an access road and service lights for the approach onto Highway 28.

“Once the groundwork is done outside, there’s a requirement for a little bit of cleanup on the yard and some fencing to be done,” said Sawchuk.

“There has been talked about having an approach directly onto the highway. There are some concerns from Alberta transportation in regards to being on a curve there, of course, and so we’re in discussions with them on that.

“The fire chief did make mention about going out the service road having lights there, where they could get a quick shot onto the highway.”

Response times

With the move of emergency response comes the ability to better serve the Moose Lake and Northshore Heights areas, local officials believe.

Fire chief Jay Melvin doesn’t think response times will be impacted at this point as he’s working with volunteers on routes getting to the station and out to emergency scenes.

“I do not see any decrease, only an increase of the level of service that we’re going to provide the whole area that Station 5 not only covers but also for EMS and 911,” he said.

“Right now, that centerpiece of infrastructure is almost centered within the two major populace of the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority Station 5, who respond to the town of Bonnyville, and a big population and around Moose Lake.”

Mayor Gene Sobolewski said he’s heard concerns from residents, but is reassured by the work the BRFA is doing to met this new challenge.

“The professionals tell us there’s not really much of a difference in terms of response times and things like that. But I have heard some people with concerns that taking station out of Bonnyville. We’re still serving the area and the town included. So we’ll have to see how it transpires,” he said.

There was a planned announcement at the site last Thursday has since been postponed.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.