Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper says each municipality should cover the true cost of improving the radio systems at their local fire halls.
Lambton County’s fire chiefs say the current analog radios will soon be unusable. The chiefs have been working with Spectrum Communications to create a new digital system which would include 14 towers for the 23 fire stations in the county’s 12 communities.
The cost for the infrastructure is about $1.6 million but each department must update their radios. That increases the cost of the new system to over $2 million.
Lambton County has divided the cost up on a per fire hall basis and then shell out for the new radios. Brooke-Alvinston and Oil Springs have expressed concern saying the project while needed is pricey and smaller municipalities don’t have the ability to pay large amounts.
Mayor Napper has a few questions about the system but doesn’t doubt it is needed. “There is not a lot of choice (but to complete the project) if you want radio coverage,” he says.
But he’s not interested in funding the system on a per capita basis across the county. “It should be the true costs,” he says. “I’m not prepared to subsidize somebody else’s radios. If that’s what radios cost me, that’s what I’ll pay.”
Meantime, Warwick Township Council supported the new system in principle at a total cost of $165,932 to be shared between fire halls in Warwick and Watford.
The motion says the cost will be part of budget deliberations in both 2016 and 2017.
“This is the best deal available,” said Warwick Chief Brad Goodhill during a presentation to council on Monday.
He said the issue is about the health and safety of both the general public and emergency personnel because the current system is antiquated and not working properly.
Goodhill said pagers are failing in the current system and sometimes firefighters can’t talk to each other because of a lack of range with the existing radios.
Councillor Jerry Westgate conceded that, although costly, the new system is necessary.
“We really don’t have much choice,” he said.
Each Lambton County municipality is getting a look at what their bill will be though out the summer and it is likely the issue will go to Lambton County Council for final approval.
Construction of the project isn’t likely until 2016.