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Regional emergency service deal leaves BWFD future unclear

A new agreement signed by communities to the east of the Border City could result a major change for the Rural Municipality of Britannia.

On Tuesday of last week, a press conference was held at the administration building of the Rural Municipality of Wilton. The conference was called to announce the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Town of Marshall, Town of Lashburn, and the RM of Wilton, which will see their respective fire departments merge under one command and administration structure. The combined service will be known as the Legacy Regional Protective Service (LRPS).

According to Glenn Dow, the Reeve of Wilton, and Kevin Shortt, the Interim Chief of the LRPS, the move will lead to cost savings, and allow training to be offered to more volunteers who wish to serve in the area fire services. The political leadership of the new service will consist of a board, with representatives from the three communities, with operational command given to the regional chief of the LRPS, with individual division chiefs.

Dow also said the three communities would benefit with fractional ownership of equipment, as all equipment would be available across the service to the member communities.

“You don’t have to have full ownership of it,” said Dow.

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“If you have fractional ownership, it’s available to you as soon as you have that need.”

Dow said the new service is aimed to be operational by January of 2017.

As for how these changes will impact the Britannia-Wilton Fire Department, it remains unclear. According to Dow, the BWFD currently serves all of Britannia, and half of Wilton.

“On the political side, the R.M of Britannia and the R.M of Wilton are currently discussing how that might look,” said Dow.

“This (deal) has the ability to add Britannia to it, if that is their wishes. It’s a model that is designed to add other jurisdictions if necessary, or if they wish to be. We don’t know what the outcome currently with Britannia-Wilton will be, because we’re just looking at the logistics that make it good for everybody, and certainly we’re looking at how it impacts our rate-payers and they’re looking at how it impacts their rate-payers. At the end of the day, we’ll some announcement down the road.”

Dow said there is time until December to figure out how the BWFD will be impacted.

John Light, the Reeve of Britannia, said he had been working with Dow and the administration of Wilton for the last two years on the deal. However, he went on to say Britannia backed out of the deal, after it appeared it would not benefit the ratepayers of the jurisdiction.

“It finally came to where we wouldn’t join with them,” said Light.

“They were doing their best to include Britannia in this, their enlarging of the fire department, and my council felt it just wasn’t right for Britannia, so we backed out of what they were doing, and we’ve kind of got our own plans in place, but we’re not really ready to go public with them yet.”

Light said the exit from the deal was motivated by the inclusion of Lashburn and Marshall in the LRPS.

“When you try to explain to your rate payers that we’re going to put money into a fire department that is going to expand in these two areas, it just didn’t look good,” said Light.

With the clock now ticking on the merger to form the LRPS, Light said there is planning going on to keep the BWFD in its current form, though he could not speak much further on the details, except to say the department will stay the same until December 31, 2016.

“From there, we haven’t really wanted to say too much just yet, but we’re working with our chief and a few other people, and we hope to maintain it as is,” said Light.

“That’s the hope, so that’s what we’re looking at.”

Light also said he saw no reason for the RM of Britannia to be unable to go it alone for providing a fire service. However, he did not rule out the possibility of joining the LRPS.

“The door is left open, that if something doesn’t work out we can always work with them and join up with them,” said Light.

“That door hasn’t been shut for us.”

The BWFD was formed in 1990, following the merger of fire services from both rural municipalities. It currently has 30 volunteer members.

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