Armour Reeve Bob MacPhail hopes members of McMurrich/Monteith council have a better understanding about a proposed fire service agreement that takes in seven Almaguin communities involving five fire stations.
At the request of the mayor, MacPhail made a detailed presentation to the council earlier this month to correct misconceptions about the proposed agreement.
McMurrich/Monteith Coun. Alfred Beilke had said earlier in time the proposal called for the formation of a regional fire department and also the individual municipal councils would not have control of their fire budgets.
Shortly after Beilke made the comments, MacPhail told The Nugget the concept of a regional fire department died years ago and was no longer being considered under the proposed new agreement.
Additionally, the municipal councils maintained control of the fire budgets.
MacPhail made those same points and several more at the McMurrich/Monteith council meeting.
MacPhail emphasized the agreement called for five independent fire stations working together to protect seven municipalities spread across 1,883 square kilometres.
That goal would be achieved through standardized training where all the volunteer firefighters were trained to the same level.
Additionally, to increase efficiencies, the fire stations would participate in strategic purchases of major equipment and major pieces of equipment would be shared by the fire stations.
MacPhail said under the agreement it wasn't necessary for each fire station to buy the same major equipment when two pieces, like boats, would suffice and meet everyone's needs.
MacPhail made it clear the proposal was created by the five fire chiefs and he was presenting it to council on their behalf.
When MacPhail finished his presentation there were no questions from any member of council.
The only comment came from Coun. Daniel O'Halloran, who said he found MacPhail's presentation “very informative and it cleared up a lot of information that's been floating around (that) we've gotten from different sources."
The Nugget contacted MacPhail about his presentation and asked if he believed he cleared up misconceptions about the agreement.
“That's what I tried to do,” he said.
“I tried to pick the bits and pieces where I knew they did not have a full understanding of where we are now. They knew where they were years ago, but not now. I think I addressed all the concerns and hopefully I gave them new stuff to think about.”
On the point that no one asked MacPhail any questions, the Armour reeve said he hoped it's because the information he provided cleared up the misconceptions.
Although no other community among the seven has raised the same points as some elected officials with McMurrich/Monteith did, MacPhail has sent his presentation to the other municipal councils to ensure everyone has all the latest and updated information.
MacPhail said since sending his presentation to the other councils, no one has asked him to clarify any of the points in the proposal.
“So hopefully it made sense and everyone is back on the same page,” he said.
As for the agreement, MacPhail remains hopeful it can still be in place by this summer.
He said the five fire chiefs are writing the language and will soon discuss whether the agreement should take the form of a by-law or a memorandum of understanding.
MacPhail says the fire chiefs will take about one or two months to iron out the details, and then all parties involved will review their draft and discuss whether further changes are needed.
MacPhail had one request of McMurrich/Monteith council following his presentation.
He asked the elected members to wait until they saw the finished document and only then “consider if you're in or out."
“It's taken us eight years to get here and if you can wait a little longer, I'd appreciate that,” MacPhail said.
The Nugget contacted Beilke to determine if he was satisfied with MacPhail's presentation and if it cleared up his earlier understanding of the proposed agreement.
Beilke has not responded to a request for an interview.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget