Water tender, service cost increase at head of fire services negotiations

CSRD and City of Revelstoke still working out the details

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) will have an additional six months to prove to the City of Revelstoke that they can provide a water tender before the end of 2018.

Revelstoke City Council voted in favour of directing staff to draft a new fire services agreement for Area B from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 21, 2018 at the regular council meeting on Oct. 24. The agreement will include a 10 per cent increase to the cost of fire protection services to the residents of Area B, as well as a water tender.

Council voted on four motions pertaining to the fire services agreement.

The first was to receive a letter signed by Charles Hamilton, chief administrative officer, Columbia Schuswap Regional Disctrict.

The letter outlines the main points of contention within the agreement.

Recent correspondence indicated “that the City of Revelstoke gave notice of termination to create an impetus and momentum towards arriving at a replacement agreement and that genuine efforts to reach a replacement agreement have continued to this day,” the letter says.

RELATED: Debate heats up over fire protection

“The CSRD’s understanding was the same as that of Mr. Chabot [Claude Chabot, chief administrative officer, City of Revelstoke] – in other words, the City wanted to renegotiate the agreement and not to actually terminate the services. If the City had wanted to terminate the services a clear and unquivocal notice ought to have been provided to that effect, so that the CSRD and the affected residents would have had sufficient time to explore alternatives.”

Hamilton writes that the CSRD does recognize the need for a water tender and “is willing to develop a financial model and strategy on the acquisition of this apparatus over the longer term.”

BC Hydro will commit $50,000 for the purchase of specialized equipment, if the City and the CSRD enter into an agreement.

“We are confident that the CSRD and the City of Revelstoke will continue to work in the spirit of negotiation to benefit the residents of Area B and the City of Revelstoke,” writes Hamilton. “This cooperative approach is the CSRD’s preferred outcome, and if the City is not interested in pursuing this negotiated solution, we will mitigate our risk by putting the residents of Area B on notice that fire protection service has been withdrawn by the City and explore alternatives, including legal remedies that may be available to the CSRD.”

Council voted to receive the letter.

The current fire services agreement between the City of Revelstoke and the CSRD has been in effect since 1980.

Mayor Mark McKee said that the fire department was concerned with some of the changes happening in Area B.

“They’re all good and positive changes, but houses are getting bigger, business are developing,” he said. “Especially in light of what happened around the province this past year with forest fires, it’s the whole idea of adding more and better protection and equipment and it really boils down to adding more water to fight any potential fires in the regional district.”

The City of Revelstoke is asking the CSRD to provide a 3,000-gallon water tender by the end of next year.

In the second motion, council approved that staff be directed to prepare a new agreement for a one-year period from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2018.

In the third motion, it was approved by council that the agreement should stipulate the purchase of the water tender by the end of the year and proof that the tender was on its way by June 30 or the agreement would not be renewed or extended. However, if the tender was provided, the agreement would be extended another four years.

Area B director Loni Parker attended the meeting and addressed council a handful of times.

She reiterated the CSRD and the City of Revelstoke’s long-standing good relationship and mentioned their other cost-sharing agreements such as the airport, the cemetary, parks and recreation and economic development.

“I would really encourage councillors to think carefully about moving forward and how we move forward with working together,” she said. “We have a very good relationship to date and I’m really hoping that we can come to some agreement that’s fair for both citizens of Area B and the citizens of Revelstoke.”

Council voted in favour of staff preparing a new agreement and having the water tender be part of it.

“I think we’ve got a ways to go in our discussions to see how we can fairly look at how the CSRD can fund the capital equipment that’s required that we haven’t had the ability to save in reserve funds because we’ve been putting our money into the City’s reserve funds for all of the equipment up to date – 37 years for operations and expenditures,” said director Parker.

The final motion that was voted upon was how much the updated fire services agreement would cost residents of Area B. A 12.5 per cent increase was on the table, but councillor Connie Brothers put forward an amendment to lower it to 10 per cent. It was seconded by councillor Linda Nixon.

Mayor McKee disagreed with the cost.

“I think 100 per cent is reasonable and fair because they’re buying a water tender,” he said. “I don’t think we should be charging – we’re already charging a premium by having them get a water tender.

“I think it’s a little bit onerous to throw one on top of the other.”

The motion to increase the cost by 10 per cent was passed with Mayor McKee voting against the motion.

“We want this to work. We all know that the City of Revelstoke is the best provider of fire services for Area B,” said McKee. “My personal feeling is that we will not sever our relationship of providing fire services, it’s just coming to what we think is necessary to look after the people in Area B, look after our fire department and making sure there’s no opportunity for any of these fires to be spreading into any other properties, including the City of Revelstoke.”


 

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