Morris-Turnberry looks to buy into Brussels Fire Department - April 27, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Morris-Turnberry is looking to purchase an ownership interest in the Brussels fire station of the Huron East Fire Department.
At Huron East Council’s April 18 meeting, which was held at the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre, a request from Morris-Turnberry Council was discussed. It stemmed from the resignation of James Marshall, joint fire prevention officer for both North Huron and Morris-Turnberry.
At the meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight advised that Morris-Turnberry had expressed an interest in purchasing an ownership interest in the Brussels station. He suggested that interest could be between 40 and 45 per cent based on the relative share of weighted assessment between the municipalities for the Brussels coverage area. Through this arrangement, Knight said, Morris-Turnberry, which has no fire department of its own, appeared to meet the requirements of the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office in regards to vulnerable occupancy inspections, public education and fire prevention for the municipality.
Further to Knight’s recommendation, he suggested that the arrangement be a “clean” one, in that Morris-Turnberry would pay for 40 per cent of the division of the department up front and, if the municipality chose to dissolve the agreement, the municipality would receive its investment of 40 per cent back.
While Morris-Turnberry currently pays 57 per cent of the operating costs of the Brussels fire station, based on the coverage area, Knight said that the job of Fire Chief Marty Bedard would change slightly as a result of the agreement.
Huron East wouldn’t cover any more of Morris-Turnberry than it already does, but the agreement would mean an increase in administrative work for Bedard by way of public education, inspections and outreach. If the agreement were to be approved, Knight said, Bedard would officially become the fire chief for Morris-Turnberry.
“There should also be a realization that this is a different level of service and interaction than what is presently provided – our current service is to provide fire suppression only, with some limited reporting to Morris-Turnberry,” Knight said in his report to council. “By assuming the position of fire chief, there is going to be more interaction with the public with respect to inspections and complaints and there will have to be protocols put in place with North Huron to deal with administrative issues that will arise in the areas that North Huron provides fire suppression services to and the increased interaction/reporting to the Morris-Turnberry Council and administration.”
When questioned at the meeting, Bedard said that the arrangement would no doubt result in an increase to his workload, as well as some additional liability, but he said that both he and the municipality were prepared for it and felt it was a good deal for Huron East and Morris-Turnberry.
Councillor John Lowe also spoke in favour of the deal, saying he felt it was neighbourly and a step in the right direction of continuing to share services with neighbours when and where it makes sense to do so.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan, however, suggested a slight deviation from Knight’s recommendation, saying that due to past experiences in Brucefield, perhaps there should be individual protocols based on who dissolves the agreement, should that time come.
MacLellan said that if Huron East, for whatever reason, decided to dissolve the agreement, Morris-Turnberry should be paid back its 40 per cent ownership interest. However, in the event that Morris-Turnberry decides to end the agreement, that perhaps there should not be any obligation by Huron East to pay Morris-Turnberry back.
Councillors were split as to how to proceed, with some agreeing with Knight’s recommendation and others leaning closer to what MacLellan was suggesting.
“From an operational standpoint, by including a percentage of the cost of the fire chief’s office in the Brussels and Seaforth fire area budgets, there is some additional revenue being generated for Huron East, but the most significant impact would be on the capital side, as there would be a buy-in on the net book value of the Brussels assets [$400,000] and on a go-forward basis, there would be a capital contribution from Morris-Turnberry,” Knight said in his report. He added that the municipality’s current agreement with Morris-Turnberry does not require a capital component from Morris-Turnberry.
No final decision was made, however, as MacLellan said a decision didn’t need to be made immediately. Council directed Knight to continue discussing a potential agreement with Morris-Turnberry Administrative Clerk-Treasurer Nancy Michie, making mention of council’s April 18 discussion, and report back to council at a future meeting.
At Morris-Turnberry’s April 4 meeting, council approved a bylaw authorizing new Fire Department of North Huron Chief Ryan Ladner to act as fire chief of fire suppression services in the area of Morris-Turnberry the North Huron department covers. The bylaw also named Chad Kregar and Matt Townsend as deputy-chiefs for the same coverage area.