Wheatland County has met with Fire Associations and Village Councils throughout the county and has agreed to call upon the provincial Fire Commissioner to help ensure fire services remain strong in the area.
This comes after firefighters have vocally expressed their opposition to a new fire services bylaw the county had previously given first reading.
The Mail reported on Tuesday, August 14, members of the community and firefighters attended a Wheatland County Council meeting to discuss the new bylaw. Many at the meeting had issues with the new piece of legislation.
At the end of the meeting, Division 1 Councillor Jason Wilson proposed a motion the county meet with the fire association.
That meeting took place on September 10. The outcome of the meeting was a letter drafted and signed by the County, representatives of fire associations and villages requesting the Fire Commissioner’s assistance with the bylaw.
“We are asking the Commissioner's Office to complete a review of the necessary documents both administratively and operationally to ensure the new bylaw conforms to all required legislation, regulations, standards, codes, programs, and guidelines both Provincially (and Federally when applicable). We are seeking organizational and governance advice to build better relationships and want to ensure we are all in line with Provincial (Municipal Affairs) expectations and responsibilities,” states the letter.
In a press release, Wheatland County said the meeting was beneficial.
“Wheatland County Council listened and gained valuable input from the associations and village members during the meeting. Council has created a group consisting of two councillors and two senior members of county administration, with the intent of meeting alongside the five-member associations to review the proposed Fire Services Bylaw 2018-07 in order to move towards second and ultimately third reading,” it stated.
It appears fire departments are still concerned about the direction of County. This comes a day later, after the county followed up with an email to discuss the bylaw. Many felt the review of the Fire Commissioner would come before more work was put into the bylaw. There has since been some clarification.
“The very next morning a couple of the councillors, said they would like to get the bylaw a little closer to what we want before the commissioner sees it,” said Brett Gates of the Standard Rural Fire Association. “I think that is reasonable. These two councillors are really trying, so I think we are going to go along with it. The first reaction from the email wasn’t good, but I think those councillors phoned most of us to explain what was going on and I think we are going to take them for their word.”
He is hopeful the groups will work towards an agreeable resolution.
“I think the only condition we are going to meet with them is if it doesn’t get rammed through without the Fire Commissioner’s input. That is our intention, and I think it is certainly Reeve Koester’s intention too, so hopefully, it works out.”