Petrolia/Enniskillen fire agreement questioned

Firefighters from Petrolia/North Enniskillen work together to put out a house fire on Shiloh Line in June 2022..

Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

Enniskillen may spend 10 per cent more on fire protection in 2023.

But at least one municipal councillor says the township is paying more than its fair share for the Petrolia/North Enniskillen department.

Council reviewed the fire budget March 6. Clerk/Treasurer Duncan McTavish is recommending council raise increase spending from $500,000 to $550,000 to allow the municipality build up its reserves in preparation for more equipment and vehicle replacements in the coming years.

Enniskillen contributes to two fire budgets. At the Enniskillen/Oil Springs department, the township will be paying $18,180 more in 2023 contributing $131,703 to the cost of running the department.

The township is also drawing over $402,000 from reserves to pay for its portion of a pumper truck in Oil Springs delivered in January.

This year, Enniskillen will pay $70,800 for capital projects at the Petrolia/North Enniskillen department. The department is hoping to build an accessible washroom with showers on the ground floor of the fire hall.

Councillor Wally Van Dun, one of the township’s representatives on the fire board, says four years ago the washroom was expected to cost $30,000. The estimated cost has now doubled. Van Dun says if the tender turns out to be more than $60,000, its likely the fire committee will scrap the plan for now.

While the capital costs are on the low side this year, McTavish says a big ask is on the way.

McTavish said the Petrolia Fire Chief Jay Arns at the Feb. 28 meeting also argued for the purchase of a $1.3 million combined tanker-pumper. The current pumper truck is slated for replacement in 2025.

The committee asked him to put his idea in writing for its review.
With a deficit of between $48,000 and $72,000 anticipated in the fire department reserves at the end of 2023, due to capital expenditures approved by both departments, council agreed to add another $50,000 to the fire budget to place into reserves.

Meantime, Councillor Judy Krall, who is the chair of the fire board in Petrolia/North Enniskillen, says the cost sharing agreement with Petrolia should be reviewed.

Right now, Enniskillen pays 40 per cent of all costs at the department but Krall’s calculations show over the past eight years, Enniskillen generates between 23 and 32 per cent of the fire calls.

In 2022, only 29 per cent of the calls originated in the township.
Krall – who has raised the issue in 2019 only to be shut down – points out Petrolia’s population and tax base is growing. From 2016 to 2021, Petrolia’s population grew by 271 people. Enniskillen’s decreased by 29.

With 8,838 people in the two municipalities, 68 per cent of live in the town limits.

Mayor Kevin Marriott added false alarms at Lambton Meadowview Villa – which is in Enniskillen – may also be inflating the number of calls in the township.
Krall hopes to raise the issue again at the fire board to prompt a review of the cost sharing agreement.

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