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Woolwich council wants more time with costly fire master plan proposal

A fire department building spree costing upwards of $4.5 million and the possible mothballing of the Floradale station require more than a cursory discussion,  Woolwich councillors concluded Tuesday night, deferring a decision on a new fire master plan for a few weeks.

Pushed for by Coun. Patrick Merlihan, the delay allows for more review of a document that’s long on spending but fairly thin in justifying its recommendations.

Looking principally at stations in Elmira, Maryhill and Breslau, the plan drafted by Emergency Management & Training Inc. of Barrie lists some 22 recommendations for the Woolwich Fire Department. Most notably, it recommends building a new fire hall in Breslau, replacing the existing Maryhill station with a small detachment that would serve as a satellite station from Breslau, and moving the Elmira hall onto a site in the Lunor subdivision on Church Street West.

If the Elmira station moves, the report suggests monitoring the Floradale hall, where calls have been falling, with an eye towards closing it and serving the area from the new Elmira facility, which would be a stone’s throw away.

The Floradale hall, however, was just opened in 2008 at a cost of $1.3 million.

Picking through the report, Merlihan noted “there’s some really weak arguments here” for some of the recommendations, particularly moving the Elmira station.

Among the rationales for that change is the fact the existing Howard Avenue building is in the industrial area, close to some of the chemical plants that might be trouble spots. As well, relocating the hall to a residential area could make it closer to where firefighters live.

Merlihan pointed to the new site’s proximity to the Floradale station, and the potential value of the land in the Lunor subdivision, township property that could be sold and the money used for more pressing needs.

Coun. Larry Shantz also questioned the move to Church Street, while Coun. Murray Martin asked if the township would really look at closing the Floradale station.

“Is that really in the cards?” he asked, arguing that dispatching trucks from Elmira would slow response in the north part of the township. “Are [people] up there not any more important than they are here?”

Township fire chief Rick Pedersen said the report is meant to be a working document for the next 10 years, with nothing set in stone.

He noted the township does not have enough money set aside at this point to fund any of the projects, though the time line has been tentatively set as 2018 for a new Breslau station and Maryhill satellite facility, and 2019 for a new Elmira fire hall.

Councillors are expected to revisit the fire master plan Dec. 1.

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