UPDATE (3:45 p.m.):
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District have a court date set. On Dec. 18, they will be in front of a judge to ask for an injunction that the City of Revelstoke continue providing fire protection services in Area B.
Area B Director Loni Parker said today that one way or another, the CSRD would be sending letters to residents who will be affected by the decision.
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is pursuing legal action against the City of Revelstoke over the Area B fire services agreement, which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017.
On Nov. 16, Charles Hamilton, the CSRD’s Chief Administrative Officer, received authorization from the CSRD board to instruct legal council to seek an injunction to require the continued provision of fire services in Area B through Dec. 31, 2018.
The information was released from an in-camera meeting of the CSRD Board on Dec. 1.
If an injunction were granted, firefighters would still respond to calls in Area B in the new year, however, if it’s not, Area B stands to lose its fire protection services, which the City of Revelstoke provides, at midnight on Dec. 31, 2017.
“It is unfortunate that we need to take this action, however we had no other recourse,” wrote Area B Director Loni Parker in an email to the Review. “I look forward to a positive resolution in the future.”
The CSRD and the City of Revelstoke have been negotiating a decades-old fire services agreement and in its Nov. 28 regular council meeting, Revelstoke city council passed three motions regarding the fire services agreement.
Among them was a motion that the CSRD Area B Rural Fire Protection Services Authorization Bylaw No. 2212 be read a first, second and third time. It was passed unanimously.
In a Nov. 29 letter to the CSRD Board from Allan Chabot, the City of Revelstoke’s Chief Administrative Officer, Chabot outlined the motions passed at the meeting and requested that the CSRD adopt authorizing bylaws before the end of the year.
“As you know, time is of the essence in this matter if rural fire protection services are to be provided in the specified area of Area B after December 31, 2017,” wrote Chabot.
He said that if a motion consenting to the provision of fire services was received from the CSRD, the bylaw could be considered by Revelstoke city council for adoption at their next meeting on Dec. 12, 2017.
“As you know, a new, modern, rural firefighting agreement for rural fire protection is in the best interests of all parties and remains a priority for the City,” wrote Chabot. “We look forward to your positive response.”
The CSRD sent a response to Chabot on Nov. 30.
“I remain extremely concerned about this matter and the City’s position, which, with respect, does not seem to take into account the life/safety problems that your position will create for area residents, many of whom will have no idea that you propose to cease the provision of an essential service in one month, with no alternative available,” the letter said.
The letter, which was signed by CSRD Deputy Manager, Corporate Administration Lynda Shykora on behalf of Hamilton, also said that the CSRD was “provided with a ‘take it or leave it’ type draft” that has already been approved by council.
“The fact that it is now enshrined in a bylaw that has had three readings reinforces the fact that the agreement is not negotiable and it is simply misleading to characterize what has transpired that way,” the CSRD’s letter said.
Among the contentious points of the agreement are a 3,000-gallon water tender required by the City, as well as a UTV with fire suppression ski and equipment for the BC Hydro draw down zone.
The agreement would also see city firefighters not enter any structures within the service area when responding to a call.
The CSRD stated in the letter that they “instructed staff to pursue legal action if you will not agree to preserve the status quo to allow for a reasoned discussion and attempt to solve this.
“If you are prepared to agree to that we would be pleased to discuss interim terms that may be mutually acceptable such as expanded indemnity to limit your risks, but your position at present that the CSRD’s only choice is to simply sign the agreement you prepared without negotiation or discussion is unreasonable and unacceptable.”
The CSRD Board is next scheduled to meet on Jan. 18, 2018.
The last Revelstoke city council meeting before the new year is Dec. 12.