On January 8, the first reading for Wheatland County’s new fire board bylaw passed.
The board will act as an advisory committee to the council regarding how fire service is managed in Wheatland County.
The composition of the board was a concern discussed during the meeting.
Right now the proposed board will be comprised of five members of fire associations, two members at large and three members of council.
Item 3.5 in the bylaw states that members of the fire board shall not be a member of a volunteer fire department or an employee of a fire department.
Council asked that the wording be amended because most members of rural fire departments are volunteers.
Stuart Larson, general manager of protective, emergency and fire services explained that the bylaw is worded that way to avoid having active firefighters on a board that deals directly with capital purchases. In some cases there isn’t a completely objective viewpoint, he explained.
Councillor Jason Wilson re-iterated that the board will only be working in an advisory fashion.
Reeve Amber Link also gave feedback about the lack of representation for fire departments on the west side of the county.
“The villages have expressed concern that they don’t have a seat on the fire committee and I indicated that through our conversations we had talked about the Wheatland Regional Partnership as a vehicle to bring those concerns forward,” she said.
“We have to be cognizant that we are representing fire services in the entire municipality, and right now as it stands it is somewhat weighted towards that east side where we have our fire associations,” she said.
“We need that representation from our entire west side that does not have fire associations,” said Link.
Some of the board’s duties include giving council recommendations on fire capital and operating budgets, recommendations for procedures, equipment and training. It could give recommendations on dispute resolution with other municipalities, and work on items like preparing long-term plans for fire services and to update the fire services master plan, if needed.
It is unclear when council will be holding second or third reading for the bylaw. In order for a bylaw to come into effect, council needs to pass three readings.