Perth fire de­part­ments to con­tinue shar­ing ser­vices.

West Perth and Perth East strike deal to con­tinue shar­ing fire ser­vices

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - TERRY BRIDGE STAFF RE­PORTER tbridge@post­

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.

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