Town cutting back on fire hall staffing

Duane Hicks

Town council passed a resolution last night to reduce the staffing complement of the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service from eight full-time firefighters and one chief to six firefighters and one chief.
The town also will be working towards a more efficient platoon call-back system in order to reduce overtime costs.
Town council and administration have been doing a review of the fire department and its services, with the focus to establish an appropriate level of service for citizens while maximizing cost-effectiveness, the town in a press release.
But mayor and council want to reassure residents that the staffing level of six full-time firefighters will not reduce the level of service provided to residents, and that the fire department will maintain 24-hour coverage in the hall.
“Based on the direction provided by mayor and council, we will continue to provide the same level of service,” said Fire Chief Frank Sheppard, adding “the implementation of the platoon system and a rotating call-back system will work effectively with the new staff level.”
The number of full-time firefighters currently is seven as Chief Sheppard officially moved from his position as a full-time firefighter to chief earlier this month.
The change to staffing comes after a recent arbitration award to firefighters here.
The town has stated the cumulative cost, based on a staff of eight full-time firefighters, over the duration of the award would be $335,500, and that municipal taxes would need to increase by two percent to cover the costs of the award.
Also at last night’s meeting, council:
•heard a presentation by BIA chairperson Connie Cuthbertson, who gave an update on its activities and future plans.
•heard Gord Watson, chair of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championships Inc., speak about the future of this summer’s event, which is scheduled for July 17-23;
•spoke with Corey Bolton of Solar Logix Inc., who answered questions regarding the proposed placement of solar panels on several town buildings;
•referred a request from the Rainy River District School Board re: a new skating rink on Robert Moore School property to the Operations and Facilities executive committee for its recommendation, with input from the Planning and Development executive committee;
•referred a municipal per capita financial request from Rainy River Future Development Corp. to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation (the total amount requested is $52,955, based on 7,565 people at $7 per capita);
•referred a request from L. O’Flaherty regarding the return of a deposit on site work at the Super 8 Motel in Fort Frances to the Planning and Development executive committee for it recommendation;
•agreed to a request from Rainy River District Victim Services Program to proclaim April 10-16 as “National Victims of Crime Awareness Week” in the Town of Fort Frances;
•referred a proposal from Bell Mobility re: site selections of Sunny Cove and Memorial Sports Centre for the expansion of a Bell Mobility telecommunications tower to the Planning and Development executive committee for its recommendation;
•passed a bylaw to approve an amendment to a development agreement with Steve William Both, Charles Richard Morken, and 1578289 Ontario Ltd. re: development at 260 First St. E. (the amended bylaw states they must have the property cleaned up by June 30, 2011);
•passed a bylaw to re-appoint Paul Heayn as meeting investigator for the Town of Fort Frances;
•passed a bylaw to authorize the signing of an agreement with C. Grimard and the Canadian Union of Public Employees; and
•passed a bylaw to authorize a merchant agreement for payment processing services for Fort Frances Power Corp. transactions (this will allow FFPC customers to pay their bills using credit cards).