Perth fire departments to continue sharing services.
West Perth and Perth East strike deal to continue sharing fire services
Fire Chief Bill Hunter will continue wearing two hats for the foreseeable future.
Hunter has headed a pair of Perth County fire departments since 2013 and will maintain his double duty for at least the next four years.
“It’s been working quite well for the last three-and-a-half years. There’s some things we’re going to do a little bit differently in this agreement,” Hunter said. “We had the first agreement, recognized some things that need to be addressed and we’ll address them as we move forward.”
After initially striking a sixmonth interim agreement on shared fire services, the Municipality of West Perth and Township of Perth East signed a three-year deal in May 2014. That was set to expire this past May, but the two sides extended it until the end of 2017.
Now they’ve finalized a new four-year pact – it was rubberstamped earlier this month – that will run from Jan. 1, 2018, until the end of 2021. Under the contract, the two communities will continue to share three fulltime staff: Hunter, fire prevention officer Todd McKone, and administrative assistant and public educator Tanya Bettridge. Formally, West Perth contracts the trio from Perth East.
Hunter and Bettridge are based in Milverton while McKone works mainly from Mitchell. However, their home bases aren’t really relevant.
“I do spend some time in Mitchell,” Hunter said. “With the technology of today, whether I’m sitting in front of a computer in Milverton or sitting in front of a computer in Mitchell, I’m still going to accomplish what needs to be done.”
Perth East CAO Glenn Schwendinger pointed to the cost effectiveness of the agreement in his report to council.
“In light of maintaining fiscal responsibility, and providing a superior level of fire prevention, protection and public education to our residents, the opportunity to enter into a shared services agreement with West Perth has been demonstrated to be very successful,” he said. “Working with West Perth to share fire administration duties has benefited both municipalities.”
In a press release, Perth East Mayor Bob McMillan highlighted the system’s efficiency.
“Municipalities in the Province of Ontario have to be prepared to seek synergies and efficiencies wherever possible. The shared fire services between the Township of Perth East and the Municipality of West Perth will continue to be mutually beneficial for our residents by providing topnotch fire protection with enhanced prevention and education,” he said.
There was only a nominal increase in the cost of the new deal.
“When you enter into an agreement that is only cost of living increases over the previous threeyear agreement, I think that’s a pretty good sign,” Hunter said.
Perth East currently has three stations – Milverton, Sebringville and Shakespeare – 67 firefighters, 11 trucks and two support vehicles while West Perth has 28 firefighters and five trucks at the lone station in Mitchell. The firefighters are paid on-call volunteers.
Heading into the initial agreement, Hunter – he was hired by Perth East in 2011 from Southwold township in Elgin County. – conceded taking on a fourth station in a different community presented challenges.
“But I think we worked well together,” said Hunter, a Kincardine native who lives in Milverton.
As for the next four years, Hunter said there will be a larger emphasis on public education and prevention.
“We’ve been doing a very good job of that. We just need to continue with that, but we need to build on what we’ve been doing,” he said. “The more fires we can prevent through education and prevention the better (off ) everyone in the community is. We really want to continue that and that’s our goal as we move forward over the next four years.”
The fire station in Perth East is seen here on Monday. West Perth and Perth East have signed a new agreement to continue sharing fire services.