Rossland lone dissenting voice on EES decision

Directors approve training officer for regional fire rescue

Trail Mayor Mike Martin called it a million-dollar decision.

The city and five regional participants recently agreed to a three-term contract for a full time training officer in Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue.

The seventh vote and lone hold out was Coun. Lloyd McLellan from Rossland.

With the fire service eating up $511,000 or half the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) tax requisition this year, Alternate Director McLellan opposed the motion during the May 19 East End Services (EES) meeting.

The issue has a long and interesting history, says Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore.

“And this is not about the service itself, it’s about trying to be creative to meet our region’s needs without breaking the bank.”

She recalled the fire service review that Alpine City council initiated in 2013, in an effort to find cost savings and efficiencies in the regional department.

“The report came back recommending a number of expensive additions to our service,” she said. “I do not recall that there was even one cost saving idea.

“This to me, was preposterous. We have a terrific fire service, but the costs are getting unaffordable.”

Moore was referring to a 2014 report by David Mitchell and Associates, a B.C. company specializing in fire service analysis. After spending 17 days with the fire department the previous summer, the group outlined 39 final recommendations to the RDKB, including the hiring of a full time training officer.

“The position was recommended and that horse was out of the barn,” said Moore. “For the amount of money we are now spending on a training officer, a fair number of of people could have attended courses at the Justice Institute or a trainer could have been brought out,” she added. “I realize this isn’t ideal, and maybe not feasible, but I don’t believe other alternatives were properly explored.”

She acknowledged the rationale brought forth to EES directors prior to the decision, but maintains the matter merited further scrutiny and discussion.

“I appreciate that Mike (Mayor Mike Martin) and Ted Pahl (Warfield Mayor) worked with the fire chief to create the business case, and I thank them for their work,” she said. “But I’m not satisfied there was enough critical thinking brought to bear on alternatives or enough recognition that this whole service is costing a lot money.”

Moore reiterated her council’s stance that cost saving opportunities must exist in light of the expert’s report, that she says lacked thoroughness.

“I would have like to seen some tradeoffs,” she explained. “If this position was the top priority, then perhaps savings should have been pursued from elsewhere.”

Regarding the Trail mayor’s statement of the job’s expense, Moore agreed, saying the decision to add a new permanent position will cost taxpayers a bundle over time.

“It is easy to bring on a new position but nearly impossible to do away with it once it is established,” she added. “There is a robust firefighters’ union after all.”

Moore noted a one-year trial period was discussed but the three-year term was considered a more realistic approach to attract applicants and determine the position’s efficacy.

“I can see the point, not many people would be willing to uproot themselves and possibly their family for a temporary assignment,” she said. “In terms of the job itself, I still think one year would be sufficient to see if the position has merit and if it can achieve a significant number of its objectives.”

This year, the RDKB’s requisition to East End participants increased about 3 per cent. Aside from Rossland’s half million apportionment to the fire service, Trail paid $1.4 million toward the service’s $3.25 million requisition.

Last year, a 3.5 per cent increase in regional district taxes meant Trail paid over $1.3 million, or almost 44 per cent of the $3.06 million fire service budget. Area B paid $302,000 to the fire service; Warfield, $139,600; Montrose, $90,600; Fruitvale $167,000 and Area A, $522,600.

Another cost component Moore questions is that all B.C. firefighters are paid to a general standard that is based on a Vancouver firefighter’s salary.

“It does not take into consideration the significant cost of living differences within our province,” she explained. “Just take a minute to contemplate Vancouver real estate prices with those in our area for instance. So, our professional firefighters are paid just about the same as the guys in the Lower Mainland. Ouch.”

The mayor also questioned the number of fire halls needed to cover the RDKB fire district territory.

“This may be taken as heresy but maybe we don’t actually need six fire halls to cover the area,” she explained. “Surely there could be savings found somewhere if that was the goal and mind set of the RDKB board. I think by working collaboratively with the fire service personnel we could have seen a different result.”

Other fire service recommendations included the need for a joint training centre, an increase in career staffing by one firefighter per shift and focus given to the recruitment and retention of paid on-call firefighters

“The argument that a training officer is needed to improve recruitment and retention also sounds a bit hollow,” Moore concluded. “I think people are busy, they aren’t leaving the service for lack of training opportunities but more for lifestyle commitments and conflicts. It takes a tremendous amount of time to be a professional or paid on-call firefighter anyway you look at it. I would have like to have seen other models for training explored.”

Fire Chief Terry Martin said a training officer job description is currently being drawn up in the union, and the job will post internally to ascertain if any local career staff are interested in applying.

According to fire rescue’s business case, a new provincial directive for minimum structural firefighter training standards came into effect last fall.

Given the level of service KBRFR provides, which is Full Service Operations, the new regulations require a specific level of training called NFPA 1001 or Level 2.

The business case outlines the means to achieve the regulatory compliance training for a Full Service Operations fire department. The main component being the proposal to hire a dedicated training officer to develop and implement a service-wide training plan.

Just Posted

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A living wage sets a higher standard than the minimum wage; it is what a family needs to earn to provide the basic needs based on the actual costs of living in a community.
Fruitvale now a living wage employer

“I’m really excited that Fruitvale is leading the charge for municipalities locally,” Morissette said.

Nelson police say a man attacked two people downtown with bear spray on Wednesday afternoon. File photo
Two people attacked with bear spray in downtown Nelson: police

Police say the three people know each other

Rotary eClub of Waneta Sunshine, alongside members from the Kootenay Native Plant Society and Trail Wildlife Association, joined together for a day of planting at Fort Shepherd. The Waneta Sunshine eClub was granted funds through an Express Grant from District 5080 to plant 50 shrubs which support pollinator opportunities at Fort Shepherd. Photos: Submitted
Kootenay conservation partners plant pollinator ‘superfoods’ at Fort Shepherd

TLC welcomes community groups to Fort Shepherd who would like to help local ecosystems thrive

Harold and Sadie Holoboff are bringing great food and service to the Eagle’s Nest Restaurant at Champion Lakes Golf and Country Club. Photo: Jim Bailey
West Kootenay golf course welcomes father-daughter team to restaurant

Chef Harold Holoboff brings comfort food to another level at Champion Lakes Eagle’s Nest Restaurant

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read