At their June 23 regular meeting Council for the M.D. of Pincher Creek No. 9 heard from a delegation of Beaver Mines volunteer firefighters, who were there to ask why the building of a new fire hall in Beaver Mines has been delayed and to voice their concerns about the state of the existing hall. Council discussed the issue, agreeing to commission a report on the options available for building a new fire hall at the property on the north side of Beaver Mines, purchased for that purpose in 2011. Councillor Garry Marchuk was vocal in his continued opposition to building a new fire hall at that site, which is close to his own property in Beaver Mines.
At their July 14 meeting council decided to purchase a portable washroom facility for use at the current fire hall, with a price not to exceed $40,000, Councillor Marchuk also opposed that decision.
The Beaver Mines Fire Station delegation on June 23 included Captain Allen Tapay, Lt. Steve Oczkowski, and Hawkin Everts. Tapay spoke to council first. "Our main reason why we are here today is we really want to find out what is the delay, why is there a delay in the building of a new hall in Beaver Mines?" Tapay said the replacement of the 20 year old Engine 12 with a newer larger vehicle (Engine 31) was necessary "We really couldn't really do too much with it, it had trouble getting to places." According to Tapay that larger vehicle made the inefficiencies of the fire hall more apparent. "By '08-'09 it was realized with all the medical calls and a bigger area that a new hall was needed."
"Chief David Cox first proposed that... in '09, so this has been an ongoing thing here for 6 years already."
Beaver Mines Fire operates under the umbrella of Pincher Creek Emergency Services (PCES), headed by Chief Cox. Steve Oczkowski sold four acres of land at the north extremity of Beaver Mines to the MD after a 2011 bidding process for the purpose of building a new fire hall, after several other sites were discussed. "So it's four years since that," said Tapay. Many of the trees at that site were removed in October of 2013, resulting in complaints from Marchuk and a delegation of adjacent homeowners.
Captain Tapay was firm in his assessment that the current fire hall doesn't provide the necessary facilities for its purpose. "We are supposed to have restrooms, definitely potable water, showers, separate meeting rooms or education rooms away from our dirty bunker gear, trucks, etc. Because we can't have vapours etc. coming off our bunker gear, and what have you." Tapay added that a wash bay for cleaning used equipment was also required.
Tapay showed council photos of the current fire hall. He said they illustrated that there was no room within the hall for the addition of bathrooms and showers. A photo of the outside of the hall showed that "It is a just road allowance, it's not even a lot." The current hall is located on the east side of Highway 507 on a road allowance, with a steep hill right behind it.
Tapay said firefighters have sometimes been compelled to "run up the hill and use the outhouse in the park, about 150 yards away." he said that recently that facility had been left in poor condition by a member of the public. "Everything was covered in vomit."
Tapay explained that Beaver Mines Fire raised raised $28,000 for Engine 71, a bush buggy, which is now used to access remote areas when a situation occurs. He said that vehicle has added to the crowded parking problem at the fire hall. "We've got about maybe a 2-3 foot walk space that we go by to get in past the truck to our bunker gear."
"Generally, we try to pull the truck out first so we have enough room to dress."
Contaminated gear is a big issue. Tapay showed a photo of oil that came from a boot after attending a scene. "We don't have any wash facilities there, showers, or anything. I went home and proceeded to leave an oily footprint across my floor, as I was trying to get to my shower."
"We were black from head to toe, and it gets in under your bunker gear, too."
Tapay cited an example of a situation when the fire hall proved inadequate to the requirements, an accident involving a patient choking up blood on the attendants. "We have to go home and expose our families to this, instead of being able to clean up there."
"As firefighters we are volunteers. We are not paid. We are doing this on our own, we are trying to help the community here. We are being exposed to all kind of things like this."
Inadequate parking for responding members is also a concern. "We have accidentally trapped him in there, when he could have been able to have gone home."
The state of the current building was also criticized. Tapay said that areas open to the outside allow mice and inclement weather to enter the building. "The whole building is rotting. Steve (Oczkowski) just ordered a new threshold for us."
Tapay told council that the Beaver Mines Fire responds to situations all over the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, not just in Division 3, where it is located. He cited the example of a recent fire in Twin Butte, that included a response from all Beaver Mines Fire personnel. "I'm trying to show here that Engine 31 Beaver Mines is used everywhere in this area of Pincher Creek Emergency Services."
"It's not just Beaver Mines that we are attempting to take care of. It is the whole municipality, and this area."
Speaking about a trailer fire in the town of Pincher Creek that occurred in February of 2014 he said "(Beaver Mines) Engine 31 was one of the big reasons that it didn't spread to the adjoining trailers. We fought hard and we were actually commended by other fire departments, (Town of) Pincher Creek, and managed to save more of that street." Tapay said PCES Chief Cox has informed him that in the event of a major fire Engine 31 will be utilized due to the foam fire suppression unit. "My job is going to be to try and prevent it for spreading to adjacent houses."
Tapay explained Beaver Mines Fire responds to 48 to 66 calls per year. Examples of common calls are to Castle Mountain for ski incidents, incidents involving campers in the mountains, motor vehicle incidents, and fires. "It just gives you an idea that all our volunteers, we stay busy."
The apparent omission of the new Beaver Mines Fire Hall project from the MD's ongoing fire commission planning is also a concern for Tapay. "I was told by various councillors, 'We'll build you the Beaver Mines Hall once the Fire Commission takes it over'. Well, Dave (Cox) just gave me this article here about the fire commission and under 7 everything is transferred over, but there is no transfer of the Beaver Mines Fire Hall, no transfer of 4 acres for the Beaver Mines Fire Hall. The three of us and my brigade would like to know why it was left out of the commission transfer."
Tapay also questioned councillor Garry Marchuk's role in the planning delays. As mentioned earlier in this article, Marchuk's property is in close proximity to the land purchased for the new fire hall. In November of 2011 the council of the day held a public meeting about the new fire hall site, at which Marchuk was a very vocal opposing voice. Marchuk was not a member of council at that time. "I do not know what is going on here in chamber, but it is my personal opinion that there's been a conflict of interest with anything that he mentions to do with this fire hall, as he has a personal stake in this... and I would like it on public record that I don't feel he should have any vote on this, whatsoever."
Tapay then surrendered the podium to Beaver Mines Fire Lt. Steven Oczkowksi. He gave council a timeline of events regarding the planning for the new fire hall. He said that in 2010 it was moved that Chief Cox be granted the right to ask for an approval for a proposal for land for a new fire hall in Beaver Mines, "Nothing else, just the fire hall." In 2011 "Council moved that they would accept the offer to purchase the new land for the fire hall." That land was purchased from Oczkowski, with certain conditions. In 2012 "Council moved they recognized the Crestview Lodge, the administration building, and the Beaver Mines Fire Hall were 2012/2013 priorities. Which... what happened there? Obviously we ran into priorities. The land that I sold to the council, to the MD, as specifically for the fire hall, it was advertised as a fire hall... to the commission. Why isn't it in there? If it's not what it's to be used for, a fire hall, I would like to buy it back."
Firefighter Hawkin Everts spoke next, focusing on Occupational Health and Safety standards (OHS). "We are doing our due diligence to keep my guys safe, that they have the tools, the proper gear, and be sure they have everything they are going to need to work." He said his crews come in covered in mud, soot and blood after responding to incidents. "For us to come back to the hall, we aren't asking for what you have here, we want to get the mud and the blood off. That's OHS regulations. That's the law."
Council had no questions for the delegation.
Later during the June 23 meeting councillor Terry Yagos made a motion that $50,000 budgeted for upgrades to current fire hall washrooms be allocated instead toward a site plan study for a new fire hall. "The last council spent a lot of time on this," said Yagos. He said they looked at the use of the current fire hall and if it could be saved, and also looked at whether or not a new fire hall could be built on the current site. "That really didn't appear to be feasible." He explained that council of the day went through a tender process for the proposed new fire hall on the proposed new site. "The councils have done their work. The need for a new fire hall, a reasonable fire hall, has been very clear. That's why I made this motion."
Councillor Marchuk said "I would like some clarification on the need, councillor Yagos, for a new fire hall".
"You heard some from the delegation, here," replied councillor Yagos. "I did. I'm asking you," responded Marchuk. "You made the motion, I'd like some clarification. 5.5 calls a month? How is that justification for spending any more ratepayer money, when we can address their needs, as stated here, by them, by putting in washrooms? We made a commitment. This council. You were sitting here, just a little while back. You agreed to spend $50,000 to put washrooms in there. They need washrooms, absolutely. No question. Let's get them for them. Let's get the showers, let's get the washrooms. We can have that grader relocated. It doesn't have to be parked there." The grader councillor Marchuk referred to is an MD of Pincher Creek grader that is often parked at the current fire hall site. "The whole reason for a satellite fire department... the reason these things came into being is to have this first response, to control things until the fire department from Pincher Creek got out there with all the equipment."
"They need a storage shed? Let them build a storage shed in Pincher Creek. We have a fire hall that meets the needs of the community, and the area of Beaver Mines."
Councillor Schoening said "First and foremost, obviously they aren't going to build a new fire hall in a year. And obviously the fire department in Beaver Mines needs shower and bathroom facilities. You can call it a waste of money if you want, but I really think we need to address washroom and cleaning facilities in the fire hall that's existing, and if for no other reason than we would be upgrading the building to make it more salable, if necessary, in the future."
"I would like to think that the people from our fire department have come forward with ideas, and reasons why this fire hall probably isn't doing the job for them in Beaver Mines at this time. Even disregarding just the washroom facilities, the storage facilities, I like to think that if I ask a question of somebody, that knows more about a subject than I do, that I listen to what they have to say. I'm not saying that there might not be a little bias there, but in essence, they have to be dealing with this on a practical level, so we have to think about that," continued Schoening, who also the grader should not be stored at the current fire hall location.
Councillor McNab (who resigned for personal reasons shortly after this meeting) asked how water was to be supplied to new washrooms at the existing site. Director of Operations Leo Reedyk explained that a 1,000 gallon water cistern was included in the proposed project costs.
Reeve Hammond questioned the wisdom of "good money after bad" if the MD spent $50,000 to upgrade the current fire hall. "You're restoring a marginal facility, in terms of what it can offer, and its ability to meet the demands of the fire service people there."
Councillor Yagos responded to councillor Marchuk's questions, saying "First, since I voted in favour of it, under Robert's Rules of Order, I have the right to bring it up. Second thing is that one of the reasons that we rejected fixing the current one up, and (instead) building a new one is the danger of the slope slide, because that was just a lot of dirt that was piled there, and anytime anybody wants to build on a slope..." "That's been there for how many years?" interjected Marchuk.
Yagos requested a recorded vote on his motion.
Responded Marchuk, "If councillor Yagos gets his wishes this afternoon, and we do vote in favor of taking that money, and spending it on a site survey, $50,000... what do the do in the interim? For the next year, or two years, while the new facility's being built? Do they continue working in this environment, or do we put up, how do we accommodate their needs that are needed, right now?"
"That would be a question of mine as well," said councillor Schoening. "If you look at immediate needs..."
CAO Wendy Kay said "Before we read the motion and vote, I do just want to state as CAO that we are discussing this property adjacent to councillor Marchuk's property..." An increasingly agitated Councillor Marchuk interrupted, asking for clarification as to what the motion was. "I believe you have to leave the table on this topic. It's totally up to you, I cannot force you to leave the table..."
"Are we voting on putting washrooms on the existing building?"
Kay read the motion, that $50,000 budgeted for upgrades to current fire hall washrooms go toward a site plan study for a new fire hall.
"Interesting conundrum here," said Marchuk. "Because number one, if we are voting on putting washrooms on the existing building, I'm certainly not opposed to that. So that motion has to be re-worded as a statement. Yea or nay on the $50,000. Isn't there a line that redirecting funds has to be a separate motion?"
Reeve Hammond said "There is a motion on the table."
"Terry, tell me how that's fair," said councillor Marchuk. "Tell me how as a councillor I can sit here and provide input for my ratepayers..."
"You can vote on it, you can vote against it," said Reeve Hammond.
"Is there anything ... because how that motion is stated? Can the vote be restated? Can we spend the money on washrooms, or not?" asked Marchuk.
"That's not the motion," said Reeve Hammond.
CAO Kay started to suggest changes to the wording of the motion, but was interrupted by councillor Marchuk. "That's right, I question it also, the way the motion sits. That's one way to win a battle, but it's not the proper way. I will excuse myself from this motion." Councillor Marchuk then left the room.
Councillor Schoening suggested a friendly amendment, that upgrades to the existing fire hall be considered a separate issue from discussions about a new site plan. "It's my thought that these people need these facilities sooner, rather than later." Councillor Yagos rejected that amendment.
Councillor Yagos' motion was read again, that "The council not approve improvements to the current fire hall, and that the $50,000 be directed to undertake the site plan on the new fire hall site."
Councillors Schoening and McNab voted against the motion, defeating it.
Council then asked for input from Director of Operations Leo Reedyk, who offered four recommendations in his report on the subject, including tendering the upgrade project, accepting quotes already provided for it as reasonable to proceed and within the allocated budget, to include the project in the 2016 budget, and "The fourth recommendation was similar to the motion that was just defeated."
Reedyk told council "It certainly was my understanding from previous council and part of the reason why I included presenting options to the residents at a public meeting to maybe get some committment to the residents of Beaver Mines when we had a public meeting, at that point in time when we had some options available, that we would bring that to the community for consideration. So, how will you deal with the councillor resident right across the street? I assume that architectural futures of the building, to how we enter and exit the site..."
Reeve Hammond said "We do need folks to be on a long range goal, and that's to have a more up-to-date, spacious model, which offers the level of safety and security that these folks who put their lives on the line on a regular basis...
"Correct me if I'm wrong, please, but we need a short term fix, but we should be looking at the long range goal," Hammond said later in the discussion.
Councillor Yagos moved council approve Reedyk's fourth recommendation. Councillor Schoening again offered a friendly amendment that "We also investigate all options for shower/washroom facilities for the existing building."
The amended motion was read by Executive Assistant Tara Cryderman, that "That the report from the Director of Operations, dated June 11, 2015 regarding the Beaver Mines Fire Hall Washroom Upgrade be received; and that Council direct Administration to commission a report on the options available for siting of a new fire hall on the property on the North side of the Hamlet of Beaver Mines with the intention of providing siting and architectural options to residents at a public meeting; And further that Council Direct Administration to investigate options available for temporary washroom I shower facilities at the current fire hall site."
Sitting council, including Reeve Hammond, and councillors Yagos, McNab, and Schoening, with councillor Marchuk still absent, voted unanimously to approve the motion.
At their July 14 regular meeting council discussed information brought back to them by Leo Reedyk regarding temporary washroom facilities for the current fire hall site.
According to Reedyk's report, "Administration researched options for temporary washroom facilities. Options fall into two categories, one that is typically used at events and consists of facilities mounted on a movable trailer for moving from site to site."
"For all options, the need to be self-contained with fresh and grey/black water, heat and the ability to operate in an arctic environment was considered. The option to plug into an existing power supply at the fire hall was used rather than the requirement for a generator. There will be ongoing expenses for the portable trailer including supply of potable water and hauling waste water."
"Administration met with Mr. Tapay to discuss the projected use of the facility in terms of the number of fire fighters potentially using the facility at any one time, the need for shower and or the need for laundry equipment for washing bunker gear. Mr. Tapay indicated that a typical response from the Beaver Mines would involve 2 to 5 firefighters and that their laundry and or washing bunker gear was accomplished using the facilities at the Pincher Creek Fire Hall."
"The purchase of a trailer unit as a temporary washroom facility provides options for the municipality when it is no longer required at the Beaver Mines Fire Hall. It can be used at job sites, events or sold for the residual value. It is recommended to purchase rather than rent as the duration of its stay at the current fire hall site is unknown."
Reedyk's recommendation was that "Council direct Administration to purchase a portable washroom facility including toilets and showers for up to 3 persons with a price not to exceed $40,000, with the funding coming from Emergency Services Capital Reserve (6-12-0-761-6760).
Council discussed the recommendation.
"We have a solid quote to put an addition on that building for under $50,000," said councillor Marchuk. "Regardless of what we do with that building in the future there's going to have to be a washroom and shower facilities there. If you use it for storage of MD equipment, the operator's going to have to use the facilities on occasion. Why would we waste any more taxpayers' dollars on a temporary solution when we've got a rock solid quote? I'm absolutely against wasting any more taxpayers' money, and I'm absolutely against this motion."
"What I like about this is it's temporary, because we can always sell it after, if we don't have to use it" said councillor Yagos, " and I would like to remind the council we do have a unit (firefighting engine) sitting in mothballs right now, the secret to fighting a fire is to get water on it as quick as possible, we've got a unit that could put water on it six times faster than the one we've got in Beaver Mines right now, and we're not only putting property, we're putting lives at risk delaying the project."
Councillor Yagos said that at a future meeting he would be asking council to address councillor Marchuk's possible conflict of interest regarding Beaver Mines fire hall issues.
Councillor Schoening asked Reedyk if there was a timeline for the purchase, should it be approved. Reedyk said there were a variety of options, but delivery was possible near the end of July "if everything fell in line".
Councillor Yagos moved council accept the recommendation to purchase a portable washroom facility, with the price to not exceed $40,000. Council voted in favour of the motion, with councillor Marchuk opposed.