Some fire halls to merge MRC eyeballs all fire services

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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – In response to soaring costs for fire safety services and to improve their efficiency,  MRC Pontiac’s 18 municipalities have funded a study on the region’s fire services. Richard Lefebvre, former director of fire safety in Rouyn-Noranda, is conducting the study, expected to cost about $24,000; the  province will cover 50%.

Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – In response to soaring costs for fire safety services and to improve their efficiency,  MRC Pontiac’s 18 municipalities have funded a study on the region’s fire services. Richard Lefebvre, former director of fire safety in Rouyn-Noranda, is conducting the study, expected to cost about $24,000; the  province will cover 50%.
Lefebvre recently visited each municipality’s elected officials and fire departments to assess the organization of fire safety services across the MRC, and to gather suggestions for improvement. His report, which will offer three or four options, is expected in December.
Although four municipalities voted against funding the study, feeling the expense is unnecessary and that status quo agreements are sufficient, all municipalities are included in the study to complete the regional picture; they will all share the  costs.
An inventory created last year of the equipment and manpower in each fire department will  complete Lefebvre’s final report.
Amalgamation on the table
Another of the study’s objectives is to evaluate amalgamating some departments, given the high total price MRC Pontiac pays for fire services in relation to population; $1.6 million to serve about 14,000 people, about $115 per citizen. “There was definitely money that didn’t need to be spent, and there is a lot of redundancy,” said Julien Gagnon, the MRC’s Fire and Public Safety Coordinator.
By law, each fire department is required to have certain equipment, which adds up when several small fire departments must purchase the same devices. According to Litchfield mayor Colleen Lariviere of the MRC’s Fire Service Committee, the Campbell’s Bay/ Litchfield Fire Depart-ment just purchased a new fire truck that, when all is said and done, will cost about $400,000. The Bryson/Calumet/Portage Fire Department, about 8 kilometres away, has similar equipment.
Gagnon added that even if  the solutions do not yield an immediate savings, they could curb future cost increases. “Every five years or so, our budget for fire services doubles,” he added, noting one reason for the increase is compliance with government regulations.
Chichester, Sheenboro, & L’Isle-aux-Allumettes amalgamated their fire departments last July to form the Pontiac Ouest Fire Safety Service, which resulted in a full-time fire chief, Glynn Fleury. “It didn’t save money, but there are more taxpayers paying on equipment, so in that case, it’s cheaper on all our pockets,” he said, noting the full-time position gives him more time to recruit volunteers, and search for the best prices.