By Michael Christianson
Fire Chief Ryan Murrell presented Dryden City Council with four potential models for delivery of fire service within the community at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday evening.
Murrell said they looked at many different models currently in place and noted the average cost of fire protection in Ontario is 7 per cent of the overall operating budget for municipalities while in Dryden’s is currently 2.89 per cent.
The first model presented is the current service as outlined in the 2018 budget. This model was in place before the work stoppage. This method utilizes trained volunteers at very high numbers.
The full cost of department for this model is $808,507, the cost per household is $228.33 and the cost per capita is $104.34 amounting to 2.89 per cent of the total budget.
The second model seemed to be Murrell’s preference, and the model currently being used in Dryden, of the volunteers/work experience program model. This model includes a $30,000 living allowance for work experience program participants.
The full cost of department for this model would be $836,749, the cost per household would be $243.93 and the cost per capita would be $111.47 amounting to 3.08 per cent of the total budget. The difference from the 2018 budget would be $55,242 amounting to a cost per household increase of $15.60, an estimated tax increase of 0.39 per cent.
Murrell said the major benefit of the second option is getting highly trained pre-service fire students from colleges across Ontario; this program would be the first time the program would be tried in the province.
“All the schools I called out in B.C. or all the actual fire departments that are operating this work experience program today said that 50 per cent of their applicants come from Ontario, 50 per cent,” said Murrell. “So by our guess that looks like 65 people that are applying per course out there and if 50 per cent of them are coming from Ontario then why aren’t we doing this work experience program here in Ontario?”
The third model presented was the paid on call volunteers model.
The full cost of department for this model would be $946,899, the cost per household would be $267.41 and the cost per capita would be $122.20 amounting to 3.38 per cent of the total budget. The difference from the 2018 budget would be $138.392 amounting to a cost per household increase of $39.08, an estimated tax increase of 0.98 per cent.
The fourth model presented by Murrell was the full time/volunteer firefighters model. He stated that this model builds retention and recruitment opportunities. There would be guaranteed daytime coverage with 3 full time firefighters.
The full cost of department for this model would be $1,155,082 the cost per household would be $326.20 and the cost per capita would be $149.06 amounting to 4.13 per cent of the total budget. The difference from the 2018 budget would be $346,575, amounting to a cost per household increase of $97.87 an estimated tax increase of 2.46 per cent.
Murell also stated that the Dryden Fire Service currently has 25 applicants, eight of those previously served at Fire Hall #1 before the work stoppage.
Council concluded that they would need time to review the options.
Negotiating Chair of the Dryden Fire Fighters Association Darren Trist now says he believes there was an effort to destroy the volunteer service from the start.
“The report boasts that they are $39,000 under budget but doesn’t say this years budget is $118,000 higher than last years for the first 3 months,” said Trist. “Its very concerning that they had a $30,000 increase in their Salaries/Wages budget even though staffing wasn’t supposed to change. This line has ballooned an additional $17,000 above that with the paid members. They were accounted for long before they were even here, just further proof that the Fire Chief had all of us targeted from the start. Just another piece of evidence how calculated this move was to remove the volunteers that had 355 years of combined experience and replace them with new recruits. The evidence continues to pile up.”