Escalating costs are council’s elephant in the room

Resident Bob Melnyk takes issue with city spending, especially at the fire department.

Editor,

Hats off to Councillor Gary Starling for bringing one of council’s elephants in the room to the table (Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services report too hot to touch, News, Sept. 4). The issues of skyrocketing costs of Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services and what needs to be done. This department’s budget had increased 66 per cent between 2006–2010.

At this time the seventh full time position was filled with the understanding that this would significantly reduce overtime. It is evident that this did not occur. It is now 2013 and costs continue to escalate with no resolve.

The current schedule system, which had validity in the far distant past, cannot accommodate the demands being placed on it in the last five to six years. This is the time frame for the beginning of the medical first responder program.

Councilor Starling nails it when he states that the province continues to download on to the city. Council seemingly puts up little resistance to this issue. In a perfect world, to fund this shortfall is admirable, but in the real world, this is not affordable for the citizens of Revelstoke.  Councilor Welock’s comment about fire trucks manned with volunteers waiting until a career firefighter arrived is disconcerting. Our volunteers dedicate themselves to this community and put in many volunteer hours to learn and hone their skills. They put their lives on the line. The history of our fire department shows that the majority of our firefighters came up through the volunteers. The point of the comment Phil, was the issue of entitlement to overtime. It is no wonder there seems to be a shortage of volunteers, when right from the political level there seems to be a bias between career and volunteer.

Since 2011 when the suggestion of doing an evaluation of Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services was introduced, it has met resistance from the mayor and some councillors. The issue seems to be what terms of reference are to be used. Does not value for money and affordability comprise a significant portion of the terms of reference? It is now at the table and I hope the people of this city will follow it and speak up, for at last it has been brought forward. Council has never determined what are the city’s core responsibilities are and continues to stumble.

One does not have to look far to small-town California where many small cities have had to declared bankruptcy because of debt levels. They thought that they could afford many services and needed many things – they where wrong.

We are not there yet, but our debt level is the highest in the history of Revelstoke. Three financial focus groups, a Chamber delegation and the city’s own financial director have told this council that the level of spending is not sustainable. Deal with the current elephant on the table. There are many more.

Bob Melnyk,

Revelstoke