Firefighters, council to look at options

Councillors will be meeting with a Fort Frances Firefighters Association representative July 27 to get input on a fire protection plan before it agrees to three firefighters taking the early retirement package.
At its regular meeting Monday, council reviewed a report during the in-camera session from the community services division on various options
•restructuring the firehall based on a “team” approach using a combination of full-time and part-time firefighers;
•putting part-time firefighters on schedule, with hours varying depending on the option selected;
•relocating the phone answering to Riverside Health Care Facilities, which operates the 9-1-1 system, in the event that there is no one in the firehall;
•leaving it status quo, with 13 full-time firefighters and 18 part-time; and
•reconfiguring staff with only two departures, rather than the three in line for the volunteer exit program.
These options could save an estimated $91,000 to $127,000 in operating expenses each year, depending on the option.
“Within these cost figures are conversion estimates to make these adjustments,” noted CAO Bill Naturkach, explaining that took into consideration any extra training costs that may be incurred in the initial changeover.
There could be further savings down the road, he added.
Fort Frances Firefighters Association president Greg Allan noted a letter was sent to council requesting it meet with the association before any decisions were made.
“We’re patiently waiting to find out what the outcome of this is going to be,” he said Friday.
The issue arose after council offered a volunteer exit to employees nearing retirement, on the condition that those positions not be replaced.
Both full-time and part-time firefighters were concerned a revamp of the firehall wouldn’t allow them to provide the same level of service.
But Naturkach stressed nothing would be finalized until the town was certain it could provide a quality service to the community, noting administration didn’t make any recommendations on the options.
“The only recommendation was to receive these options and to consider them,” he added.