Fire ser­vices merger a good thing, Hat­ley Town­ship mayor says

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - By Matthew Mc­cully

The in­ter-mu­nic­i­pal fire ser­vices merger be­tween Og­den, Hat­ley, Ayer’s Cliff, Sainte-cather­ine-de­hat­ley, Stanstead Town­ship, North Hat­ley, Stanstead, and Hat­ley Town­ship has been a hot topic re­cently.

While the ma­jor­ity of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties ap­proved the agree­ment unan­i­mously in re­cent coun­cil meet­ings, a num­ber of fire­fight­ers who spoke to The Record raised con­cerns about the pro­posed régie. Stanstead Town­ship ap­proved the agree­ment with a three/two vote amid vo­cal op­po­si­tion from mem­bers of the pub­lic who were frus­trated that they weren’t given more in­for­ma­tion about the plan be­fore­hand.

The Record con­tacted Mayor of Hat­ley Town­ship Martin Primeau, who is a mem­ber of the Sher­brooke Fire depart­ment and also de­signed the in­ter-mu­nic­i­pal agree­ment in ques­tion, to ad­dress some of the con­cerns raised.

Primeau said the changes will be ad­min­is­tra­tive, not op­er­a­tional.

The Record asked if Primeau had looked into what would hap­pen if the fire­fight­ers in the eight mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in the in­ter­est of eq­uity, were to union­ize af­ter the régie was formed.

“They could do that to­mor­row if they wanted,” ex­plained Primeau, say­ing that any group of work­ers in Que­bec is en­ti­tled to form a union. He does not be­lieve the for­ma­tion of the régie would be a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor.

When asked how the régie could func­tion eq­ui­tably when four of the eight mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have no fire sta­tion or equip­ment to speak of.

Primeau said that an eval­u­a­tion was done of the re­sources of all the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the pro­posed régie. Those re­sources, whether trucks, boats or other equip­ment, will be bought out and be­come the prop­erty of the régie. In the case of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with fire sta­tions, rent will be paid by the régie to en­sure that re­sources, which will be­come avail­able to all, won’t be a fi­nan­cial bur­den on the town where they re­side.

Given the sig­nif­i­cance of the in­ter­mu­nic­i­pal agree­ment, The Record asked Primeau why the pub­lic wasn’t in­vited to weigh in on the idea.

Primeau said the dossier is very com­plex, and has been in the works for 2.5 years. He said mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils were elected to be de­ci­sion mak­ers for the pop­u­la­tion, a he didn’t see how a con­sult­ing the pub­lic would af­fect the agree­ment.

“It’s hap­pen­ing ev­ery­where,” Primeau said, point­ing to other re­gions in Que­bec merg­ing ser­vices.

When asked if the project would be scrapped if one of the eight mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were to re­ject the agree­ment, Primeau said no.

While the agree­ment is based on the par­tic­i­pa­tion of all eight, if one were to opt out, the oth­ers would still move for­ward with mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

While Primeau sug­gested sup­port for the agree­ment was vir­tu­ally unan­i­mous with the ex­cep­tion of the split vote in Stanstead Town­ship, the west­ern sec­tor of Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog was of­fered the same plan for an in­ter-mu­nic­i­pal merger and re­jected it out­right.

“The elected of­fi­cials weren’t con­vinced,” Primeau said, re­fer­ring to the west­ern sec­tor.

“I gave the ex­act same pre­sen­ta­tion,” he said.

Primeau sug­gested that be­cause the eastern sec­tor of the lake al­ready has two régis in place the work well, which may ac­count for a will­ing­ness to merge.

Primeau said that the mis­sion of fire pro­tec­tion ser­vices to save lives stays the same. He added that with ice storms, floods, and cli­mate change be­com­ing more of a fac­tor, be­ing able to have a re­gional di­rec­tor to co­or­di­nate ef­forts is im­per­a­tive. Also, a global view of re­sources and needs could al­low the régie to make global pur­chases in ad­vance and avoid dou­bling up.

“The job is evolv­ing,” Primeau said. Fire chiefs these days have con­stant re­ports and de­tailed ac­count­ing to stay on top of, and could ben­e­fit from a stronger ad­min­is­tra­tive struc­ture.

“We can’t be afraid of change,” Primeau said. “We’re do­ing this be­cause we be­lieve there is a gain.”

“We know we have good ser­vice al­ready,” com­mented Primeau, com­pli­ment­ing the cur­rent work­force of fire­fight­ers.

The goal is to move slowly and work to­wards mak­ing the cur­rent sys­tem even bet­ter, he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.