Smiths Falls

Council narrowly approves tender process for fire department addition

Posted Jul 19, 2012 By Stacey Roy

EMC News - The difference of one vote gave Fire Chief Joel Gorman the green light to get project quotes for an addition onto the existing fire hall.

The community's ability to pay and the possibility of other solutions in the future left just four councilors voting in favour of moving forward with the tender process with three councilors voting against.

"I don't think it's the Taj Mahal but I think it's going to serve us for many years to come," said Coun. Jay Brennan who voted in favour during a recorded vote this week.

Chief Gorman has reduced his original addition plans in light of financial constraints to allow for an L-shaped, two-bay wide by two-bay long addition. The plans now call for keeping and repairing the existing hose tower and installing heating in it. The design has been reviewed by the Municipal Heritage Committee and will be in keeping with the age of the existing building. The current plan would make the old two-bay space available for offices, but renovation of this space would be delayed until additional funds could be found.

Coun. Shawn Pankow appreciated the chief's efforts, but still felt he had to vote against because of affordability.

"At some point we have to look and say what is affordable for the community not just what we want," he said.

The addition is now expected to come in under $1 million.

Coun. Dawn Quinn had another reason for withholding her vote this week that looked into the future and, potentially, into the 2013 budget.

"I'm of the belief that the fire department should be moving out of this complex" and into a stand-alone facility, Quinn said.

The idea was confirmed for her recently when she drove by the station during a fire call. At that time she saw cars lining Church Street in all directions from volunteer firefighters rushing to get to the truck. Like Pankow, Quinn supported repairing the two-bay floor that is not load worthy (estimated at under $100,000) and removing the overhang on the bays to allow for the new $1.2 million aerial fire truck to be driven indoors when it arrives this fall.

"I think we're making a decision way too fast," Quinn said.

She would like to have further discussion. The fire chief reported a few weeks ago that two fire trucks have had to be stored off site once it was felt the old two-bay floor might collapse under the pressure. He said the service needs a solution before the cold winter nights this year since fire trucks must be kept in heated spaces to stop the water inside them from freezing. The recommendation to utilize former police space for offices while the repair work is underway was dismissed by Gorman as unworkable since the police won't be vacating until January 2013 and the cool nights of the fall and winter are fast approaching.

"As far as I'm concerned it's not really an option," Gorman said.

Such a plan would also provide no training space for the department, which the addition will provide. This space would double as an emergency operations centre during times of crisis. The department did have a training room at one time but gave it to the police department with the promise they would be receiving an addition in the future.

"We've been waiting over 10 years and it's not happening yet," the chief said.

The fire hall was originally built in 1921.

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