Station 5 edges closer

A review on the feasibility of a temporary fire station to service southwest Barrie, and bring response times up to city standards, ready for council’s review

Council is expected to hear very soon, perhaps as early as Monday, about a fifth, likely interim, fire station to service south and southwest Barrie.
“My understanding is that there is going to be a report coming to council this Monday. I don’t know at this point what the report is going to say … although one of the things that council approved was for city staff to look at engaging the use of a temporary facility for fire service in the second quarter of 2011,” Ward 7 Coun. John Brassard told City Scene Barrie.
Upgrading fire services in the south and southwest part of the city, sooner as opposed to later, was a major recommendation of the city’s 2009 Master Fire Plan report (item four). Taking two years to complete, the report identified gaps in service – areas where the city’s adopted standard of having 10 firefighters on the scene in 10 minutes is not being met.
“We focused on a specific area in the King Street and Veteran’s Drive area. Some of the (details) coming out of the Master Fire Plan report showed that the area, between Salem Road and King Street, would be optimal (for a fifth fire station). It would get response times down significantly, and would be able to service a large part of not just southwest Barrie, but also south Barrie in improving response times in those areas.”
Despite the report stressing the urgency, the city is facing a site issue. The report also recommended a training facility be built alongside a fire station, but a permanent site for both would require about 13 acres, property not available within Barrie’s boundaries.
The combined fire station/training facility would therefore likely be situated in the newly-annexed Innisfil lands, however planning for that area has just started and it could be several years before the city can get a permanent site there.
“So that’s where the idea of a temporary facility came in. It’s been used in other jurisdictions,” he said, naming Mississauga and Calgary as examples.
He expects council could discuss leasing an industrial unit to serve as a temporary site.
“Obviously that unit would have to be retrofitted – you’d need two bays because you’ve got a truck, obviously, that’s going to respond … and it would make sense because we did get a tanker to service the rural areas as part of the annexation.”
To accommodate firefighters, the city would need to retrofit the leased property for living quarters.
“Calgary, for example, when they were growing outwards they rented a trailer; they would park the vehicles inside but they had the firefighters living in a trailer – like an Adco or Armstrong trailer.”

Ward 7 councillor John Brassard

The main point of focus, says Brassard, is to get a level of fire service in the south and southwest part of the city so that response times improve.
As well as the fifth station, the report called for another in the northwest part of the city, less of a priority than the one for south Barrie, and the creation of the training facility.
“We did a lot of costing. One of the things that we identified, from an economies of scale standpoint, was that it was much better if we incorporated a fire station and a training facility at one location, because the overall cost savings to that were roughly $2 million.”
A business case was also provided that showed the training facility could be used as a revenue-generating stream because it could be used by other fire departments.
“First and foremost, the priority would be to train Barrie firefighters, but from a regional standpoint, we could use that facility to generate revenue by leasing it out to other fire departments.”
And, said Brassard, there is an opportunity to partner with Georgian College because of Georgian College’s fire-fighting program.
Leasing land for a fire station is not an optimal solution, and will come with costs, but, said Brassard, council has to make a decision for safety’s sake and balance leasing costs with public safety for the many residents, who are now served by stations on Ardagh Road and Big Bay Point Road.
“The reality is that when you have response times that are outside the standard adopted by council, and on the heels of a Master Fire Plan report that says we need service in that area immediately in order to deal with that situation, at this point we have to think outside the box.”

What’s it going to cost?

Station 5, to service south and southwest Barrie

• The operating costs would be more than $1.7 million for 2012, including $1.6 million for 20 new firefighters, $66,500 for facility operating costs, and $50,000 for training gear.
• The 2010-2012 capital budget totals $4.88 million, including $394,000 for land acquisition (2010), $450,000 for design (2010), $3.57 million for construction (2011-2012), $650,000 for new apparatus.

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