New Fire Station for Midhurst
I have the upmost respect and appreciation for emergency services, both full time and voluntary staff. I fully support the fire services needs if there is a risk to the responders’ safety and that of our residents.
I believe this is not the right time to invest an estimated $2,134,000 in a new fire building for Station 2 in Midhurst.
I feel the decision to invest in a new Station 2 should wait until:
- Other older and potentially dangerous equipment needs have been addressed;
- The extent and timing of future development is clearer;
- The prime location of a new building has been reviewed and identified, given the actual specifics of new future development;
- Future possibilities of combining a facility with other emergency services in a new location is further developed and explored; and,
- More funds have been specifically reserved for a new fire building.
The proposed new fire facility is estimated to cost $2,134,000 including non-recoverable HST of $37,000, before any cost overruns.
We have reserves of $1,584,599 in Municipal services – Fire Capital reserve and $141,802 in the Fire Facility Building reserve for a total of $1,726,401.
A staff report to Council indicated that the borrowing for the new building would be the net of these figures or ($2,134-$1,726) = $408,000.
What this does not focus on is that all of the accumulated fire reserves would be used up this year for this new fire building, depleting all the fire reserves by borrowing against these to the extent of $1,726,361.
Our six year capital plan, recommended by Chief Van Dam and reviewed and approved by Council, totals $1,945,000 of needed fire equipment between 2015 and 2019. As Council, we have already deferred a $375,000 pumper addition for 2015 into a future year.
If we used the above reserves for the new building, there would be no reserves available for these identified and needed items until the reserves were replenished. I am told that some of the older vehicles are in or are approaching dangerous condition and need to be replaced within the next 2 years.
So really we are borrowing the $2,134,000, not just the $408,000.
The Director of Finance informs me that approximately 80% of the fire building cost estimate of $2,134,000 will be development charge (DC) eligible or $1,707,200.
If we take the present rate of building 80 new single dwelling units per year, at the $1,475 fire DC portion for each new building, that generates $118,000 per year toward the fire reserves as a result of fire DCs. At this rate, it will take 14.5 years to rebuild the reserves to what they are today, using DC’s to repay 80% of the cost of a new fire building and this would leave remaining $426,800 un-recouped. Even if you factor in estimated increased new unit building of 130 single dwelling new units per year, at the $1,475 fire DC portion for each new building, generates $192,000 per year toward the fire reserves as a result of fire DCs. At this rate, it will take 8.9 years to rebuild the reserves to what they are today and still leaves $426,800 un-recouped.
We simply cannot afford this unnecessary building at this time. The other purported attributes of the proposed new building, including new offices and training rooms, we already have in a sufficient fashion already.
The recently released Master Fire Plan (Plan) identifies that the new proposed station is 900 meters or 40 seconds of driving time further east than the present Station 2. Although we are always trying to improve the response times for emergencies, I believe the average response times in recent history for Midhurst are generally satisfactory.
The Plan identifies a total of approximately $53,000 of needed capital improvements to fire stations 2 through 5 in the township in the near and medium term. For Station 2, it identifies relocating bunker gear storage and developing proper washroom/shower facilities, costing about $50,000. This could be accomplished by moving the existing trailer out and remodelling this area, along with a small extension to the building to the east, without affecting truck traffic or the present septic system. Any improvements would eventually continue to be utilized by public works after fire moved out of this location in future so the improvements would not be wasted in any way.
I believe an RFP should be issued for an updated bid for correcting the specific issues needing attention now in all of the stations, per the Plan. It is my opinion that Station 2 could be fixed up and made useable with good working conditions for $50,000 to $75,000. Completing the needed improvements could be done for all stations out of current reserves and not hinder other required capital replacements and additions over the next 5 years.
A Fraser Institute preliminary study of Municipal Fire Services in Canada, just released in May 2015, indicates that in Ontario over the 16 years from 1997 to 2012, the number of fires fell 41.4% while numbers of firefighters increased by 36.3%. It confirmed that firefighters carry out a number of different other tasks, as we know. The study concludes that there is room for improvement in the efficiency of expenditures in fire services departments in municipalities.
In Springwater in 2014, there were 412 calls, with 13% of them related to fire, 32% related to rescue and 23% related to medical / resuscitator calls. Station 2 in Midhurst had 151 or 36% of those total calls.
I have spoken with some of the volunteer firefighters who believe that spending this amount of money on a new fire facility at this time is not needed, warranted or appropriate and believe doing this utilizes significant borrowed capital from the wrong place for the wrong thing.
I agree with this and for the reasons outlined, I do not support the building of a new fire facility at this time. To do this now is not fiscally responsible. Safety of the residents and the firefighters is paramount – we need to ensure they have the required equipment and that the needed improvements are made in all of the fire stations.
Year End Results
The Township’s operating surplus for the year ended December 31, 2014 came in at $273,461, largely due to salaries and benefits not being fully spent from the budgeted amount, plus other efficiencies. Staff and the Finance & Audit Committee recommends that $100,000 of this surplus be allocated to a Tax Stabilization Reserve to be used in future years to assist in the smoothing of tax increases and the remaining $173,461 be allocated to a Capital Infrastructure Reserve, which along with Gas Tax revenue, will help fund the replacement of Township infrastructure. I will report on first quarter results next issue.
County Simcoe Appeal Stop Work Order – M. Rizzardo (Tecumseh Estates Inc.) (landowner)
Further to the hearing of County Council on April 14, 2015 with respect to a Stop Work Order placed on the lands of the landowner preventing the destruction or removal of trees from 35 acres of woodlands in New Tecumseh Township located on the north-west edge of Beeton, Council determined on this matter on May 12th. MNR concluded the landowner complied with its requirements; the environmental impact study findings were satisfactory to the NVCA and to New Tecumseh; Tecumseh Estates withdrew its application for rezoning. Based on further discussion, a majority of County Council voted to lift the stop work order and allow the Special Permit to Tecumseh Estates to proceed.