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February 10th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 6
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Financial data shows cost of CNP Fire/Rescue is slowly increasing
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
Financial data obtained by the Pass Herald shows that spending by the Crowsnest Pass Fire and Rescue department has steadily increased since the community merged four separate fire departments and Crowsnest Pass Rescue in 2012.

Fire/Rescue’s net cost to the municipality went from $394,000 in 2012, to $187,000 in 2013, to $443,000 in 2014. It dipped slightly to $408,000 in 2015 before increasing to a projected $568,000 in 2016.

In 2009, the closest pre-merger year where the protective services budget was broken down by function, running four fire departments cost the municipality $306,166. Ambulance and First Aid cost $62,477 for a net total of $368,643.

Regarding the startlingly low cost of running the department in 2013, Crowsnest Pass Fire/Rescue member Daryl Johnson, said 2013 was a year of transition and that the actual net cost to the municipality was probably higher than reported.

“I would say the accounting that was happening, it wasn’t that they weren’t tracking funds, but there were probably costs that were going to other departments,” said Johnson.

Kelli Tuttle, municipal finance officer, agrees with Johnson. She said $20,000 was reportedly spent on wages in 2013 but the very next year the figure increased to $173,000.
continued below ...
“So something was obviously wrong there,” she said.

Speaking during a weekly pancake breakfast at the Blairmore fire hall, Fire Chief Steve Debienne spoke about the spending increases, in particular the projected $159,000 increase in net cost between 2015 and 2016.

Debienne said they reduced their projected revenue by $68,000 this year.
“We did that to realign the budget to make it more accurate,” he said.

Fire/Rescue generates revenue when they conduct backcountry rescue, fire calls with the Agriculture and Forestry departments, or receive donations and grants.

The rest of the $48,000 in spending increases include a new floor for the fire hall for $6,000, a fire extinguisher startup program for $10,000 and $32,000 for air pack replacement.

Fire/Rescue is also assembling a four-person task force to fight wildfires in conjunction with Agricultural Services, and representatives from the Town of Slave Lake’s fire services.
continued below ...
It’ll be the second specialized wildfire fighting crew of its kind in Alberta; the other is situated in Slave Lake. It will be funded by grants and will not affect the taxpayer.

Until 2012, each town in the Pass had its own distinct volunteer fire department.

The previous council undertook a bitter restructuring of the Pass’ emergency services saw the firing of a longtime fire chief and the resignation of dozens of volunteer firefighters.

Council deemed the separate departments and a separate rescue squad "inefficient," as stated in a September 29, 2011 press release.
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February 10th ~ Vol. 85 No. 6
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