By Michael Christianson
It was revealed this week that city council is considering the closure of Fire Hall #2 which resides in East Dryden, formerly Barclay.
Word of this spread quickly and at the council meeting on Monday it was standing room only as residents came to vocalize their dismay.
The item was quickly moved to the top of the agenda so that it could be discussed first with everyone present.
CAO Ernie Remillard’s report showed that the annual cost of maintaining Fire Hall #2 is in the range of $75,000.
The report showed that of approximately 20 communities with a similar population across Canada Dryden was the only one currently operating two halls.
Due to an overwhelming response to closure the CAO determined that the vote on the report would have to be postponed.
“In tune with the point that the community hasn’t had the chance to have public output my recommendation is that we defer this to Committee of the Whole in May to give the public an opportunity to provide input and I recommend a delegation come forward at that time and for council to vote at the council meeting in May,” said Remillard.
City councilors were quick to agree with the decision as they had been fielding calls and emails all day.
The report also stated that Fire Chief Ken Kurz is confident the closure of Fire Hall #2 does not present a fire/life safety concern.
Kurz said that in these times we live a large number of the volunteer fire fighters live in the urban area of Dryden. He went on to say it’s a community decision and that they will deliver on what council decides.
“For the residents of East Dryden it would definitely be an added cost to their insurance,” said Kurz. “It’s still a larger cost in budget but our fire service of course is probably one of the more cost efficient ones when you compare it against all those comparators in Canada also even though we do have two fire halls.”
At City Hall on Monday were many East Dryden homeowners who have felt like they have got the short end of the stick since amalgamation. Some spoke of making Barclay its own town again while many came just wanting answers.
Alan Wice said he was upset with the timing of the vote but appreciated the decision to give them a chance to respond in a timely manner.
“In my case, I can’t speak for everybody in the former township of Barclay, but the services have been lacking, the tax money keeps getting increased and we get zero services for it. My feeling is this fire hall is the last thing we have, there’s nothing more they can take away,” said Wice. “There are people trying to sell their homes in this community because of the taxes and they can’t sell them, at some point enough is enough, we got to stop this.”
His wife Suzanne Wice called her insurance company to learn rates will likely go up but they could not tell her by how much. She even went as far as to call the Wabigoon Fire Hall to see if they could serve the community, they could not.
Council will discuss the closure of Fire Hall #2 further at the next Committee of the Whole meeting on May 8.