New station on target for fall, 2011

Interim solution to lagging fire-response times will come with related costs

By John Devine

Even though it came without specific site recommendations, residents in the south and southwest part of the city can expect an interim solution to lagging fire-response times by the third quarter of 2011.
Ward 7 Coun. John Brassard, chair of the Master Fire Plan committee that drafted a strategy for the city’s fire-response needs in the coming years, was disappointed a report –FES010-10 – circulated to general committee on Monday didn’t include locations for the interim station, but was pleased it reaffirmed the city’s commitment to providing a temporary solution until a permanent site is developed, likely in the newly-annexed Innisfil lands five to seven years hence.

Ward 7 councillor John Brassard

“Although I’m pleased that we are still on track for 2011, I will be speaking with the chief during the next week to discuss options to improve service levels in south and southwest Barrie as soon as possible,” he told City Scene Barrie.
The Master Fire Plan had identified the need for a station to serve the south and southwest parts of the city, along with a training facility that would not only train new Barrie firefighters, but could also be a revenue stream by being ‘leased’ to other fire departments.
To accommodate the twin purposes, the city needs about 13 acres, space not available within current built boundaries, but that will open up in the annexed lands. However, issues such as locating land for the station/training facility and implementing the necessary zoning changes could take five to seven years, general committee heard.
The need to address response times for the area will come with associated costs, said Brassard, including operational and capital expenses. New firefighters and equipment will need to be purchased, and the annualized lease and leasehold improvements would cost $120,000 for up to 6,000 square feet.
The space would cost about $20 a square foot, significantly more than the current value for industrial property, which runs about $5 a square foot, committee heard. If the lease were longer, the costs per year would be reduced over the term of the lease.
With budget approval in spring, 2011, a six-month retrofitting process would see the interim station up and running in October – and that’s if there is a building available, said Brassard.
Jim Sales, general manager, community operations, told committee that there is interest from property owners in leasing space for an interim station, but no specifics were provided.
He added that much of the cost of operating an interim station is transferable to a permanent one, and there would be a phased move to avoid any overlapping of costs.
In 2004 council adopted fire-response standards that would have 10 firefighters on the scene of a fire within 10 minutes of the call going out. That standard is not being met in the area targeted for a new station.
The report also called for a sixth station in the city’s north end, but that need was deemed less of a priority than addressing response times in the south end.
For more on this, see this previous City Scene Barrie report.

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