A model that works
T he Bay de Grave Regional Fire Department has a great fire station built brand-new for the firefighters who were willing to join forces five years ago to serve five communities in Conception Bay North.
There were plenty of smiling faces last Thursday as members of the brigade gathered with local town council members and others who helped play a part in getting the fire department to where it is today. They were celebrating the end of mortgage payments on the building and other firefighting equipment.
That represents approximately $120,000 paid off over five years — a fine accomplishment indeed.
The fire department’s origins stretch back almost 10 years. Municipal leaders at the time thought it was becoming too much of a burden to have multiple fire departments serving communities so geographically close to each other.
There’s very little separating one community from the next when you travel through places like South River, Clarke’s Beach, North River, Makinsons and Cupids.
There were hurdles to pass along the way, but all communities managed to work together to form the fire department. Officials within the provincial government helped too, and some of those folks were on hand last Thursday. Among them was Fred Hollett, the former provincial fire commissioner.
In a position to speak more freely since retiring from the public sector, Hollett was effusive in praising all who paved the way for the Bay de Grave brigade’s formation. He said the regional model worked in this case and needs to be applied to other places and not only fire protection services.
Keith Warren, a former director of programs and regional operations who is now retired from the Department of Municipal Affairs, echoed many of Hollett’s comments.
Regionalization continues to be a hot topic for rural governments. For those losing residents to labour market trends or an aging population, it won’t get any easier to provide the basic services residents need.
With that in mind, towns need to consider how to make the best use of resources and assess the potential benefits that can be drawn from co-operating with neighbouring municipalities.
Those looking to investigate may not need to look much further than what has happened with the Bay de Grave Regional Fire Department. The chief, Jeremy Hall, said his crew has no trouble getting new equipment for firefighters when it’s needed.
A new rescue truck should arrive later this summer, and the board that looks after the department already has a fair chunk of change saved to look after its portion of the cost-shared $200,000 price tag.
Regionalization is the way of the future, and the topic should not bore towns. Ideally, it can excite them.