Councillors awarded the contract for the $50,000 review to Dillon Consulting Limited at a meeting this week, a significant cost increase from the $40,000 that Fire Chief Richard Miller quoted to councillors earlier this spring. In his report, the chief stated that although the cost was above the approved limit, Dillon would provide 'the best value and the least risk' to the township due to their previous experience.
An additional $5,000 from DCA and $5,000 from the contingency fund, will finance the new price.
In addition to the increased cost, the review's likely deadline has now been pushed back. Previously, Chief Miller had said he was aiming for the review to be completed in December.
According to the chief, the review will encompass the department's service delivery, including areas such as fire response and prevention, administration and training and mutual aid agreements.
Chief Miller previously told council that a scoring system was used to weigh the various firms that bid on the contract will focus on their experience working with other fire departments in similar projects.
The chief acknowledged in his latest report that while Dillon - which has completed master fire plans for both Uxbridge and Oshawa - scored lowest for cost, they scored highest for the non-financial aspects and was rated highest overall in the three bids.
According to the system, experience was weighed at 25 per cent while cost was weighed at 10 per cent.
"We want to make sure we have consultants experienced in dealing with fire departments," he said at the previous meeting.
Added Mayor Mercier:
"This is a big financial item and a huge concern for safety. I was concerned about both cost and time, but through our review we have decided to go with the higher quality consultant."
The item garnered significant discussion from councillors, particularly regarding the price increase.
During the discussion, Ward 1 Councillor Larry Corrigan made a friendly amendment that council reduce the cost to the original $40,000, to save money and to prevent other bidders from coming forward with an appeal. Subsequently, Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten motioned to make a friendly amendment to Councillor Corrigan's amendment, to maintain the deadline of the operational review for December. Both amendments were voted down.
Ward 2 Councillor John Hancock had questions about the fairness of this decision.
"Obviously Dillon chose to ignore the $40,000 figure and come up with a figure of $50,000," said Councillor Hancock. "What would the other groups do if they had an extra $10,000 to play with?"
Ward 5 Councillor Howard Danson raised concerns that increased time and money do not mean an increase in quality.
"Powell did the last couple reviews, and in the report it indicates that Powell and Dillon are not very far apart," said Councillor Danson. "In my years doing operational reviews, if I was told I was to spend six months with a fire service that had six full time staff and 55 volunteers and two stations, I couldn't figure out what to do.... I have serious concerns over this decision, I think that the time line is way too long, and $50,000 is far too much money."
Chief Miller announced the review shortly after the township received notice in February of a provincial arbitrator's award to local full-time firefighters, following months of negotiation.