By Chris Marchand
They wouldn’t have all fit in Barclay Hall, if there were still a Barclay Hall.
Around 100 residents of East Dryden instead packed the Ukrainian Hall in North Dryden to compare notes and prepare a coordinated opposition to the potential loss of the Dryden Fire Service’s Hall #2, last week. On May 9 at a public meeting at the Centre, the group hoped to make a compelling case to maintain operations, a meeting which took place beyond Observer’s deadline.
On Monday night, East Dryden resident Dennis Lawryniuk appeared before Dryden City Council hoping to persuade the city to work with the residents group towards a solution that preserves Hall #2 operations.
Lawryniuk has spent the past few weeks combing the contents of a Freedom Of Information request, building a case on which residents of the former Barclay could pursue a multi-tiered taxation system should they lose Hall #2.
“We can see in this report that we have a case to be made that if you’re going to do that you’re going to give us money back or reduce our taxes,” said Lawryniuk. “That means your revenue from our area is going to drop. So, does the revenue drop outweigh the money you’re going to save closing the hall? I think you could make the case that over a 10-year period, it’s going to cost you more in lost tax revenue.”
Trust and goodwill is in short supply among the Barclay residents after the issue nearly went a vote on council’s first glance of the recommendation with no public notice following the Easter long weekend. When the meeting’s agenda package made the rounds on social media, a full gallery of concerned citizens were enough to persuade council to table the discussion and stave off the vote.
Hall #2 last made the news in December 2013 as consultants KPMG — while on the hunt for cost-savings in an Operations Service Review — had posed the idea of the Hall #2 closure, found the political will lacking among the councilors of the day and withdrew the recommendation.
Beyond the issue of fairness and insult to a segment of rate-payers who already feel underserviced and slammed by unrealistic property assessments, a primary concern of Barclay residents is the prospect of additional home insurance costs. The group calculates a Hall #2 closure would place 208 homes beyond an eight kilometre distance from Hall #1 and 144 homes beyond 13 kilometres, benchmarks commonly used by the insurance industry to set rates.
For a cash-strapped city, the savings would be significant, including around $75,000 per year in operations and maintenance and eliminating the need to replace a $400,000 pumper truck in the next few years.
Barclay area resident Dr. George Rabbat expressed his frustration at the May 3 meeting over how rural residents have had to mobilize and fight to be part of the discussion on an issue that could have significant ramifications for them.
“It’s very upsetting that we need to feel responsible for solving this problem,” said Rabbat. “The people of Dryden raised over $400,000 in a one day in a fundraiser for the CT-Scan. When people talk about things, create channels with surrounding areas, they come out and give. When people feel disrespected, they’re not going to give you a cent, they’re going to fight you in court. People don’t react well to disrespect, that’s why we’re all here — we’re upset.”
Resident Brian McDonald had several questions he hoped could be answered at Tuesday’s public meeting.
“Should council decide to close Fire Hall #2 and insurance rates go up as a result of it will the city compensate those affected?” asked McDonald. “Will there be a mutual aid agreement with the Wabigoon Fire Hall for emergency response in the affected area? Why wasn’t the public informed of this proposal before it was recommended to council?”