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Fire department amalgamation a hot topic


Rainy River council held its regular meeting a day late last Tuesday (Nov. 13) due to the Remembrance Day holiday.

A hot topic of discussion was the proposal to amalgamate the Rainy River Fire Department with Dawson’s. Mayor Gord Prost said there has been a mix-up as to what will happen if the amalgamation goes forward.

“We are not looking at amalgamating the fire departments. Dawson and Rainy River will retain separate departments, but have a joint chief and have joint training,” the mayor explained.

Coun. Lance Lindal asked if there was any discussion about cost-sharing. Mayor Prost replied each department will retain their respective costs and that the only cost-sharing will be in regards to training.

Coun. Glen Armstrong raised the point that the entire idea of amalgamation came from the fact council wanted to discuss the issue of being paid money from Dawson for fire protection of its homeowners near Rainy River.

Mayor Prost responded that Dawson does not feel it needs to pay that grant as they are updating their equipment and will be able to better respond to fires in their township.

That plus the fact both departments subscribe to the mutual aid agreement which states neighbouring communities must respond if called to help fight a fire.

“Even if they get new equipment, they can’t respond [adequately] to fires in Dawson as it is too big,” countered Coun. Lindal, adding they still will need Rainy River’s fire protection unless they station a truck in Pinewood and one in the western portion of Dawson.

Coun. Armstrong noted the town used to get $5,000 from fire protection and that will be gone under the new agreement.

Mayor Prost said he hopes discussions will conclude within a month and come before council for review sometime in the new year.

In other news from last week’s meeting, Coun. Larry Armstrong reported there’s discussion in the region about moving from a district social services administration board (DSSAB) to a more encompassing area services board (ASB).

He noted that by moving to an ASB, the area as a whole will have to pick up costs for long-term care and the Northwestern Health Unit. DSSAB presently looks after social housing, child care, ambulance, and social services.

“It is scary . . . if we go to ASB, which is all-encompassing, what do you need municipalities for if they are running all the services?” wondered Mayor Prost.

In other business, council agreed to write a letter of support for Rainycrest Home for the Aged to the Ministry of Health requesting more operating dollars.

Coun. Larry Armstrong, the Rainycrest rep on council, noted an arbitrator issued a decision granting wage increases to staff there.

He noted that in the past to meet the increases, they cut staff. But the board feels it cannot cut staff any further and hence needs more money to operate.

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