The dates don’t match up on fire services report
I was re-reading the POMAX Report with particular reference to the risk priority of individual recommendations, and noticed what I consider to be a significant discrepancy between the date on the POMAX report provided to the public, and timelines specified for the implementation of the recommendations. While the date on the report posted on the city’s website is June 2017, most of the recommendations in the report were slated to be implemented in the first quarter of 2017. It is highly unlikely this report would only have been made available by POMAX in June 2017, because POMAX would not be recommending the council to go back in time.
The implication is the information contained in the report was available to mayor and council long before the public saw it and the report would have been in the hands of city management prior to the first quarter — probably in the fourth quarter of 2016. This suggests council actually knew about the seriousness of those recommendations identified in the report as high-risk priority.
Council would then have had plenty of time in the last year of their mandate to act upon these recommendations and not just two months prior to the end of their mandate — as has been suggested. The implementation of the recommendations would then have formed part of the work of the budget committee in the first quarter of 2017, and not left to a new council in 2018. A sitting council would have been much better placed to deal with these recommendations especially given the fact it is this current council that commissioned the POMAX report in the first instance.
Although the city determines the level of service, it is clear the designation of almost two-thirds of the report’s recommendations as high-risk priority indicates a much more serious situation with fire services than either city management or mayor and council seem willing to acknowledge. If the levels of importance ascribed to each recommendation in the report were translated in to a letter grade, I think we know where the fire services would stand. This is not a good news story for the city, but what prompted me to reread the report was a VOCM news brief posted on July 11. It presents quite a different picture.
Indeed, VOCM reported the following – “overall, the mayor says it [the POMAX report] found that the city is pretty good”. With 26 of the 40 recommendations designated high-risk priority including the areas of fire fighting capacity, equipment and response times, how could anyone, unless they are in denial, advance the notion that the situation with fire services in this city is “pretty good”?
In an email from Mayor Pender to me dated July 11 he states “the full Council and senior management team have been fully engaged in this study and have actively participated in the process and post process.” And on the same date Todd Flynn, Director of Protective Services, informs me “the report is being studied in depth by Councillors and senior administration at City Hall.” But what am I to make of these assurances when Section 9 Response — Standards and Staffing Levels, and Section 10 Station Location, cry out for immediate attention? And not only that. If the City had received the report sometime in 2016 as the implementation timelines clearly indicate, then why would the public not have been made aware of the critical nature of many of the recommendations in the report much earlier?
If I were living in an area that could not be reached within the minimum response time of four minutes, I would certainly want to know that so that I could have a conversation with fire service personnel about what kinds of preemptive actions I would be able to take to protect my family and property while I am waiting for the fire crew to attend. Since a significant portion of the city’s population is in that situation, I cannot understand why the mayor would respond the way he did during the VOCM interview — “Mayor Charles Pender doubts that the current Council will go for building two new fire halls.”
Moreover, all residents should be made aware of the fact that if council decides not to act on the first recommendation of Section 9, namely a complement of 10 firefighters on duty, then the resident is still faced with the prospect of a diminished response with a complement of eight firefighters as specified in the second recommendation, because a fire crew of eight would be able to initiate fire suppression or conduct search and rescue, and not both.
Additionally, the initial comments by city officials in the past week have been both confusing and misleading. If, as Mayor Pender and Todd Flynn claim, Management and Council have been fully engaged with the report and have studied it in depth, it is hard to interpret the silence of the other six councillors or the mayor’s comments regarding the status of fire services in Corner Brook.
Aulda Taylor Corner Brook, NL