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Woolwich adopts fire master plan, but puts off decision on Elmira station

New fire stations in Breslau and Maryhill are a given, but Woolwich will continue to debate the merits of staying put at the existing location in Elmira even as council signs off on a new township-wide fire master plan.

Having deferred a decision when the plan was first presented in October, councillors meeting this week approved a revised document, but see it as a work in progress.

With the prospect of sharing costs with a Region of Waterloo EMS ambulance station in Breslau, Woolwich will press ahead next year with plans for a new facility there. The partnership could see about a third of the cost picked up by the region. The project has been estimated to cost up to $1.7 million.

Where a small station in Breslau now acts as a satellite of the Maryhill fire station, that arrangement would be reversed under the new plan. Once a bigger Breslau facility is operational, the aging Maryhill station could be replaced with a smaller operation that would act as an offshoot of Breslau, explained township fire chief Rick Pedersen at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The Maryhill building would require extensive repairs, estimated to cost $500,000, whereas a new facility could be built for perhaps $600,000.

With the Elmira station, however, councillors remain divided on renovating the existing Howard Avenue building or moving to a new location in the Lunor subdivision on Church Street West.

While the report tabled in October leaned heavily in favour of moving, new information paints staying put in a more favourable light. Building a new station would cost $1.7 million, while renovating the existing facility – tearing down parts of the aging building and putting on an addition – is estimated to cost $1.6 million. The latter option, however, could be funded entirely through development charges – fees levied on the developers of new homes to cover the cost of future service upgrades – whereas the new building would require more financing options, said Pedersen.

The new station would also rely on a fairly healthy profit from selling the current property. Even with that, there’s a forecasted shortfall of more than $350,000 above current financing models. The renovation project, however, could see a surplus of $80,000 if the township sells the Church Street property, which has an estimated value of $412,500.

Both Ward 1 councillors favour renovating the existing building, while other want more information before making a decision.

“I don’t support the move for the Elmira station,” said Coun. Scott Hahn.

Fellow Elmira councillor Patrick Merlihan also favours staying put.

With either option, the work is pencilled in for 2020, but the township would have to begin collecting development charges in earnest to pay for the project, suggested director of finance Richard Petherick.

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