A recent followup report into fire protection services in the Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove concludes the same thing as the original document — the service is inadequate.
© — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Mayor John Kennedy of the the Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove.
Faced with the harsh reality of the report’s findings — that the voluntary fire department can’t provide enough firefighters to meet industry standards, a large capital investment in equipment would be needed to maintain the department and the water supply in the town is lacking — council has decided to join forces with the St. John’s Regional Fire Department (SJRFD) and shutter its community one.
“The fire protection service being provided is inadequate and this places the town and its citizens in a position of risk,” says the strategic review. “Most immediate is the risk of a serious fire that could incur a large
loss, or worse again, injuries or deaths.”
Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor John Kennedy says the decision wasn’t made lightly, but it has come down to providing the appropriate service for the protection of its citizens.
“Unfortunately for our volunteers, and I feel sorry for them because they have really put a lot of time and effort into the fire department. I commend them for their work, but it’s not only the risk to residents. We don’t want people responding to be put at risk. I feel sorry it has come to this. It’s not something we want to do, but it’s something we have to do,” he told The Telegram Wednesday.
“It is outlined in writing and we would be remiss not to do this for the protection of the town,” said Kennedy, who will serve his second term as mayor of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, having been acclaimed in the nomination process last week.
During council’s meeting Monday, Kennedy made a motion to finalize the agreement with SJRFD that would provide full-time fire and emergency services to the town at an annual cost of $129,000 for 2014 and $133,000 for 2014. Figures are based on the number of homes in the community as well as their assessed values.
A vote on the motion will take place at the next meeting Sept. 23 — the day before the municipal election.
Kennedy said it isn’t great timing, but regardless of who makes up the next council, he’s convinced they would be of the same opinion.
“We had hoped this would have been done last February, but we didn’t get the figures from St. John’s until the end of August and we went back to the authors of the report and asked them to do a followup,” he said, adding the local fire department did a recruitment drive in the meantime, but numbers were still insufficient.
“We wouldn’t want to put this off on a new council. People on council know the issue, they’ve been there long enough and are quite capable to make a rational decision. If a new council comes in it’s up to them if they want to change their minds, but anyone reading this report would come to the same conclusion,” said Kennedy.
Before the strategic review took place — the original report was filed in February with a followup in August — the town’s volunteer fire department was the primary responder, with the SJRFD standing by. The retention fee for this service hovers around $20,000 annually, while the cost of the volunteer department fluctuates between $70,000-$90,000 annually.
Since the decision was made to review the fire protection needs of the community, Kennedy said, the SJRFD is responding automatically to all calls to the town, with the volunteer department providing backup because the SJRFD is waiting for a new tanker.
St. John’s Coun. Danny Breen, who sits on the St. John’s Regional Fire Services Committee, which operates the SJRFD, said a tanker is being prepared for service.
“We needed the new water tanker because you’re going to unserviced areas not only in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, but also to Paradise. So there’s been issues surrounding adequate water supply. This will be put in one of the stations and used when needed for the areas,” said Breen.
He said the provision of fire services is expanding regionally and he can see more communities joining forces.
“It began with St. John’s — Mount Pearl had its own — then Mount Pearl joined and Paradise and now Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove. When you look at offering these regional services it is going to be more cost-effective and on top of that have a fire department rated as one of the Top 3 for fire protection services in the country,” said Breen.
The strategic review outlined five options for the town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove with three being viable — retain the existing volunteer fire department, develop a career/volunteer (known as composite) fire department or receive services from SJRFD.
Kennedy said the most basic issue the town had to deal with is the insufficient number of firefighters responding to calls and it has never been about money.
“If we maintained our own fire department we’d still face that issue,” he said. “If we went with a composite department we’d have paid firefighters at a cost of about $400,000 for salaries, but that’s during the day. We’d still have to rely on volunteers in the evening and still be facing the same issue. If we knew it would work we’d look at it, but it’s all about safety, not money,” said Kennedy.