There may be a bump in the plan to build a new fire radio system in Lambton County.
St. Clair Fire Chief Walt Anderson and several others have been working since the summer on a plan to upgrade the volunteer department’s equipment. The system which is in place doesn’t allow all departments to talk with each other and firefighters inside a building can lose radio contact.
The system Anderson and the chiefs have come up with costs about $2 million – the bulk of the money is to pay for towers and centralized equipment.
Spectrum Communications can build 14 towers across Lambton County and provide the bases for 23 fire stations in 12 communities for $1.6 million. The $1.6 million won’t be the only cost. Local fire departments have to upgrade the radios the firefighters carry and the municipalities are just now getting the costs for the total package.
The municipalities agree the safety of firefighters is important, there has been some disagreement on how to pay for it.
Now Lambton Shores is suggesting a new payment formula. Mayor Bill Weber says his council would like to see a countywide levy to pay for the $1.6 million and then municipalities would pay for the local costs.
Weber says Lambton Shores is facing a bill of about $500,000 which will translate into a five per cent tax increase if they have to pay for it in one year.
Lambton Shores also has some questions about the system, including whether it will be compatible with systems in Huron and Middlesex County, where they have mutual aid agreements.
Weber expects to have some of the municipality’s questions answered at its next meeting but he says right now, he has not been getting a good response from his fellow county councillors. “At first blush, other councillors have said ‘no, we’re not going to do that, we’ll just go ahead without Lambton Shores.’”
That leaves Weber’s community with more problems – it also has mutual aid agreements with Plympton-Wyoming, which has already agreed to the new radio system.
And Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott says it could be a problem for the other municipalities also if Lambton Shores opts out. “If they’re out, that will eliminate five stations from the quote – will it make it more expensive for the rest of us?”
And he’s skeptical about Lambton Shores plan to reassign the costs. “I don’t think that will go too far,” says Marriott adding there is some movement to go ahead without Lambton Shores if necessary.
“We can go ahead with what we have,” says Marriott “but if it is slightly higher – I don’t think so.”
Marriott says the county mayors will take a look at the issue again Nov. 25