(Press release from the City of Williams Lake.)
As we noted in our earlier (February 15) press release, the City of Williams Lake and the Union of Operating Engineers Local 882-B resumed negotiations Monday morning. Unfortunately, the talks ended quickly when the Union again walked away from the table.
By walking out the Union has signaled that the parties are at an impasse. However, the Union continues to refuse to use the services of a professional Labour Relations Board mediator. The City believes that the assistance of a neutral third party would help the parties achieve a mutually satisfactory collective agreement.
Pat Bell, MLA Prince George-Mackenzie, issued the following statement on February 17, 2013.
On Friday, February 15, Cariboo Regional District Area 'D' Director Deb Bischoff was pleased to have Steve Forseth formally appointed as the new Alternate Director for Area 'D'.
Mr. Forseth has been self-dedicated to Cariboo politics since 2000; although has four years experience serving as Chair of Area D Advisory Planning Commission, this is his first official political appointment.
In order to respond to the questions the City of Williams Lake receives in regard to the issue of rural fringe fire protection, the City is releasing a list of questions and answers.
The document answers questions concerning the current negotiation with the Cariboo Regional District, the cost of City fire operations, and the Williams Lake Fire Department.
The City believes the list of question and answer will help inform residents of both the City and the rural fringe areas, and welcomes further questions at 250-392-2311.
Why is the issue of rural fringe fire protection important to residents of Williams Lake?
The City receives funds for the provision of fire protection services to rural residents on the fringe areas of the City, and is currently negotiating with the Cariboo Regional District on an agreement that amalgamates three previous agreements: two with the CRD, and one with the province. The City and CRD agree that the logical action to take is to amalgamate all three agreements.
Should an agreement be reached using the same funding formulae as was used in the previous agreements, the City will receive the same level of funds.
Should the agreement be based on net residential assessments, as the CRD has proposed (and as contained in their November referendum question), the City will receive approximately $170,000 less from rural residents, and City residents will pay more.
Should the CRD opt not to receive fire protection services, the City stands to lose fire protection revenue, and the revenue loss would have to be addressed in the City’s budget. In 2012, the City collected approximately $727,000 for fire protection services from rural residents.
What is the basis of the disagreement over fire protection services?
The CRD claims it had an agreement with the City to move to a funding formula for the service based on net residential assessment, and the City claims Council never committed to that formula. What is the status of the agreement and fire protection services? Due to a court injunction, fire protection services are being provided until April 30, 2013. The CRD has filed a notice of civil claim against the City, and the City will respond. In the meantime, the City has asked the CRD to enter into mediation over the issue.
Did the City ever threaten to withdraw fire protection service?
No. The City never threatened to withdraw service, but needed an agreement in place in order to provide that service. The only means to provide the service without an agreement was through a court injunction, which the CRD sought and was granted.
In the media, it has been claimed that City residents currently pay only $63 per $100,000 of assessment, and would pay $72 per $100,000 based on the referendum formula. Is this true?
No. The City does not collect taxes based on individual services the way the CRD does. City taxes are collected based on overall budgeting needs. The only services that are collected individually are sewer and water, which are run as independent utilities, separate from the general operating budget.
What do fire protection services cost?
For the 2011 year (billed in 2012), total costs were approximately $2,068,413, of which $512,500 is the loan repayment for the fire hall.
How many members of the WLFD are there, and what roles do they perform?
The WLFD maintains a roster of 43 members which is comprised of: - Three career officers: Fire Chief/Director of Protective Services, Deputy Chief and Fire Prevention Officer, and Assistant Chief and Training Officer. - One administrative staff member - 39 paid on-call members: Two Assistant Fire Chiefs (operations, administration, training), three captains (operations, administration, training), and 34 firefighters. All Senior Officers are certified evaluators and Fire Service Instructors level II.
What does the City pay for fire protection?
For the 2011 year, the City paid approximately $1.34 million of the $2.07 million cost for fire operations, capital projects, and loan payment on the fire hall. This represents approximately 65% of the cost.
What have residents of the CRD fire protection area been paying?
For the 2011 year, rural residents paid approximately $727,000 for fire operations, capital projects, and the debenture payment on the fire hall. This was divided among the three previous agreements.
What standard are WLFD firefighters trained to?
All Williams Lake firefighters are trained to National Fire Protection Association 1001 Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. This is the British Columbia standard for fire departments offering full service structural protection.
What does it take to reach this level of certification?
On average, WLFD members spend about 110 hours each a year training, which includes fire practice and extra scheduled training. This does not include any fire hall or required equipment maintenance or fire calls in which a firefighter may participate throughout the year; this could take up to 200 additional hours a year. It takes approximately 112 hours (approximately five months) for a new firefighter to complete the Basic Fire fighter Program, which is the entry-level program. After the recruit has successfully complete the basic program, they then move on to their National Fire Protection Association 1001 Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications, which takes about another 222 hours (or about 2 years) to complete, for a total of over 330 hours.
How many paid on-call firefighters have this certification?
30 of the 39 paid on-call members are certified to the National Fire Protection Association 1001 Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications standard. Four other members have one module of the program to complete. Four members are new recruits and have one year to complete yet. Each of the new recruits sign a letter of expectation that they will have completed their certification within 24 months.
What does paid on-call mean?
Typically, a paid on-call firefighter wears a pager and should be available to respond to a call and receive pay while on a call. Paid on-call firefighters have regular jobs which are flexible in most cases to allow them to respond.
On average, how many paid on-call paid firefighters respond to a fire call?
The average firefighter response to calls is approximately 18-20 members. What is the average response time to a call in the fire protection area? From when the Fire Department receives the 911 dispatch call: Within the City limits: first officer on the scene in 6-7 minutes, first apparatus on the scene in 910 minutes. To the ends of the fire protection area (rural CRD areas): first officer on the scene in 8-10 minutes, first apparatus on the scene in 12-15 minutes.
What capability does the WLFD have in dealing with hazardous material situations?
The WLFD has a fully equipped and trained Hazardous Materials Response Team consisting of 15 technicians and 16 operation specialists. This team is capable of responding to hazardous materials spills of chemical, biological and liquid nature for mitigation purposes.
How have fire protection agreements been structured in the past?
Prior to Dec. 31, 2012, the City was part of three separate fire protection agreements: one with the provincial government, and two with the CRD.
Initial agreement for fire protection in the rural area was initiated in 1980 and the Agreement was between the City of Williams Lake and the Province of BC. This agreement allocated the cost of providing fire protection service to both the City and the Local Area on the basis of Net Taxable Assessed Values for Land and Improvements for the respective areas. In 1993, this agreement was amended such that the cost of providing fire protection service to both the City and Local Area be allocated on the basis of Total Residential Net Taxable Assessed Values of Land and Improvements. This agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2012.
Phase 1 - CRD Agreement
Agreement between the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District made in July of 2006 (WL Rural Ph I -to expire in July, 2011 – extended to expire December, 2011). Under this agreement, “The Regional District’s portion of the Annual Costs will be $17,240 per year determined on the basis of the following calculation: Residential Assessed Values in the Local Service Area divided by the sum of the total Residential Assessed Values of the Local Service Area, the Rural Service Area already under fire protection (see immediately above), and the City, multiplied by the average 5-year projected Annual Costs to the city for providing Fire Protection Service to the City, the Rural Service Area already under fire protection, and the Local Service Area”.
Phase 2 - CRD Agreement
Agreement between the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District made in January 2010 (WL Rural Phase II - to expire in December 2011). Under this agreement, the “Regional District’s portion of the Annual Costs for this Phase II fire protection area will be determined using the following formula: the Total Residential net taxable assessed values of land and improvements in the WL Rural Fringe Phase II fire protection area divided by the sum of the total residential net taxable assessed values of land and improvements in the WL Rural Fringe Phase II fire protection area plus the total residential net taxable assessed values of land and improvements for general municipal purposes in the City of Williams Lake, plus the total residential net taxable assessed values of land and improvements in the local fire protection area under contract between the City of WL and the Province plus the total residential net taxable assessed values of land and improvements in the WL Rural Fringe Phase l fire protection area, multiplied by the total cost to the City for providing fire protection service to all above mentioned fire protection areas”.
Approximately 55 people attended the Williams Lake Business Improvement Association (WLBIA) Annual General Meeting at Alley Katz Bistro on Thursday February 7th, 2013.
The AGM is open to all members of the WLCBIA, which include all business and commercial property owners within the WLCBIA boundaries as outlined by City Council.