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Thursday, October 6, 2022
Councillor doesn’t think fire station merger is good idea

Niagara-on-the-Lake town Coun. Erwin Wiens doesn't think it's wise to explore the option of expanding and renovating the St. Davids fire station to merge it with Queenston's firehall.

The ideas was put forward by Coun. Sandra O'Connor at a Dec. 14 committee of the whole meeting as a possible alternative to building a new fire station.

During a Dec. 21 council meeting, Wiens said he didn't support spending the money on a feasability report because the town's fire master plan suggests the best option would be for a new building.

“There's already been eight previous reports in regards to this culminating in the 2020 fire master plan, and that was conducted by emergency management training at a cost of $70,000,” Wiens said.

He said Fire Chief Nick Ruller estimates the cost of another staff report would be another $15,000 to $20,000 and would put the fire master plan on hold.

More importantly, Wiens said, is that moving Queenston to St. Davids would take the village of Queenston out of the six-minute response time that the town currently has.

“I would never, ever agree to having to move (Queenston) to (St. Davids) because the distance is too far. And we all know that 30 seconds saves lives.”

He said he also feared “the morale, retention and engagement at Station 4 firefighters could be lost” if the town decides to merge the two stations inside the current St. Davids station.

He said Queenston firefighters are feeling “kicked to the curb.”

“In the volunteer fire model that we have, it is crucial for their morale that we keep them engaged,” he said.

“They feel dejected and upset that they might be losing their staiton. And, as everybody knows, each station has their own association and they're proud and they built this up.”

Instead, he suggested following the fire master plan which suggests a new building.

O'Connor defended her motion.

“I think it is our fiduciary responsibility to look at all aspects of making that recommendation, including the dollars and cents,” she said.

“What I was saying is we don't have the full picture, and until I have the full picture, I don't feel that we're doing due diligence to our residents with their tax dollars in in finalizing that decision.”

Coun. Allan Bisback supported O'Connor.

He said he thinks it's important to look at the costs of upgrading the St. Davids station, so residents know council did its homework.

“If the optimum solution is to put a new facility in and we're going to spend $3 to $4 million, I think it's worth spending $15,000 or $20,000 to make sure the residents know that we did look at the current building,” he said. 

If all the work has been done before, “it should not take that long just to brush that up and bring it forward to call current day costings.”

“Everyone wants a shiny new building. I understand that. And I understand the morale and the service issue. And that is something that needs to be considered, clearly,” Bisback said.

Council decided to put exploring pricing on hold until the time that any pricing of a new building comes forward.