UXBRIDGE: With Durham Region moving towards a study to review fire services in the area, the township recently submitted several concerns and questions the municipality has in regards to the potential amalgamation.
Earlier this year, Regional Council voted to proceed with the $74,000 study of Durham’s fire services, with one potential outcome being the formation of a Regional Fire Department, similar to the police and emergency medial services already in place. In his annual address to Uxbridge councillors earlier this year, Regional Chair Roger Anderson described the undertaking as “an initial, and mainly financial review of fire services in the Region.”
Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor noted that township staff and members of council have any objection to the study, but there are matters that they would like to ensure are addressed.
Questions over the cost of firefighting equipment, the fleet vehicles, bunker gear were raised by the township.
As well, issues surrounding staff were raised, with Uxbridge questioning what will happen to those currently employed across the Region as chiefs, deputy chiefs, fire prevention officers, captains, training officers and other staff, and the impact of locally bargained collective agreements with regards to movement between positions.
There were also questions raised about the volunteer personnel at the departments in North Durham (Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge).
In the report, it’s noted that Uxbridge currently employs ‘double hatters’ - those who work as professional firefighters in other municipalities and volunteer with the local department. Doubts were raised by the municipality that the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association would permit the use of these individuals should Durham amalgamate its fire services.
“All of the southern municipalities are all unionized and they’re all 24/7 full-time employees,” Mayor O’Connor explained at council’s meeting on April 13. “In the north we have one municipality, Scugog, with four unionized and full-time employees. The rest of us are all part time. My fear, and I think it should be the fear of all of this Township, is that with a new amalgamated fire service it’s going to come to the highest level so you’re going to have full-time fire services in Uxbridge.”
The report also questioned the future of Uxbridge’s mutual aid agreements currently in place with East Gwillimbury and Stouffville.
“Once you become amalgamated there will have to be another fire station put in because those contracts would become null and void,” added Mayor O’Connor.”
Mayor O’Connor lauded the work of Uxbridge’s current department, noting that the amalgamation option may be better suited to Durham’s five southern municipalities (Clarington, Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax and Pickering).
“To me, our system is working really, really well, to change that and put more expense on our local taxpayers isn’t the right way for us to go at this time. You’re going to end up having 24/7 manning of the fire department and when you look at us having an average of 300 or so calls a year, we’ve got roughly one call per day in this municipality to look after.”