Another topic at tonight’s Council meeting was the exploration of a regional fire service for Midland, Penetanguishene, Tiny and Tay Twp. The staff report says “The Tiny Township Mayor recently engaged the North Simcoe Mayor’s in discussion about the feasibility of considering changes in Fire Service response options. The concept advanced by Tiny Township included the notion of having the closest Fire Station within the geographic area respond to emergency calls. The concept certainly may have some merit however, there is little doubt that some significant issues would need to be addressed before such a concept could become operational.
In February, Penetanguishene Council weighed in on the matter and actually requested their CAO to explore the potential with the four northern Simcoe municipalities to “research the feasibility and value of regional fire services through a fulsome review by a consulting firm.”
ANALYSIS: Council has on many occasions encouraged administration to examine alternative service delivery review opportunities as a means to gaining efficiencies in the delivery of municipal services. This initiative falls in-line with the previous directives from Council. The CAO and Fire Chief have recently met with executive members of the Midland Professional Firefighters Association as well as the Midland Volunteer Firefighters Association (Eastern Ontario Volunteer Firefighters Association – Local 920 – Affiliated with the Christian Labour Association of Canada) to inform the executive of this development and the fact that the Town’ Administration would be seeking Council’s direction related to such exploratory discussion. Administration suggests that some preliminary conversations amongst the neighbouring communities would be helpful in determining the scope and natures of the work that a consultant would be assigned. In addition, gaining some additional insight would be helpful to determine the costs of such work and exploring the potential funding options.
There are examples of a “cooperative” approach to the delivery of fire rescue and suppression services in the Province. The closest such example is the Central York Fire service which provides fire services to both Newmarket and Aurora within York Region. Examination of such models within the context of the four northern Simcoe Municipalities will only enhance our awareness of the options available and the nature of efficiencies that can be achieved.
Midland has been sharing a fire chief with Penetanguishene for a few years now and requested a comprehensive review of the Midland’s fire service by Chief Paul Ryan back in early 2015. That long overdue report may not be required now if he is tasked with exploring a larger regional service. What savings could be realized by this move? It likely would not mean less firefighters, nor less equipment. Maybe less chiefs, but who gets to the be the new supreme fire commander? It will be interesting to see if this idea will benefit Midland and not at the expense of the communities who, presumably, already enjoy excellent fire departments.
Weigh in with your thoughts below.