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Fire service negotiations just part of ongoing relationship, says county CAO

Negotiations part of 20-year relationship between Town of Olds and Mountain View County, according to Jeff Holmes
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Olds firefighters go to and fro as they work to contain a large shop fire north of Olds in Mountain View County on March 9, 2017. A fire services sub agreement between Mountain View County and the Town of Olds was signed that same month. The two municipalities are now in discussions to create a revised agreement. File photo/MVP Staff

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY — Negotiations on a new firefighting sub agreement between the Town of Olds and Mountain View County are just part of a longstanding relationship between both municipalities, according to Mountain View County chief administrative officer Jeff Holmes. 

Last week, the Town of Olds issued a news release announcing that those negotiations are underway.  

“From the county’s perspective we recognize that from time to time we need to update and revise our intermunicipal agreements to ensure they reflect the services needed by our ratepayers and that they are reflective of service delivery changes that occur over time,” Holmes wrote in an email to the Albertan

Existing agreements will remain in place while the two municipalities work together to hammer out any needed changes to the sub agreement,” he added.   

All proposed changes would have to be approved by from each municipal council before they could take effect.   

Holmes noted that the province’s Municipal Government Act requires the two municipalities to have an intermunicipal collaboration framework, known as a master agreement.   

Within that framework, several sub agreements have been struck that cover a wide variety of services that the two municipalities offer to residents. The Fire Services sub agreement is one of them. It covers operational and capital funding for fire services. 

“This agreement reduced duplication of services and expenditures and ensured benefits and cost savings were afforded to both the Town of Olds and Mountain View County,” the Town of Olds' release said. 

The master agreement was signed in January 2016 and includes ongoing four-year renewal terms. The next renewal date is January 2024. The current fire sub agreement was signed in March 2017.   

Last summer, the Town of Olds issued a notice of termination of the fire services sub agreement with the county.   

A news release issued at that time said the intent of that action was to trigger a dispute resolution process within the current agreement before it expires in 2023.  

The Albertan sent questions on the matter to town officials. However, instead, the Albertan was referred to another news release on the matter issued last summer.  

According to that 2021 news release, “the focus of the discussions relates to base cost funding where regardless of call volume or location, there are costs to operate a fire department that both municipalities should bear a burden for, and that in sharing these costs it is a savings for both.   

“We also believe that the actual manpower costs directly related to firefighting within each municipality be funded by that municipality so that one municipality is not subsidizing the costs of another.  

“The application of a per capita funding analysis does not adequately reflect investment in protective services as private residences in comparison to commercial or industrial occupancies have different resource requirements,” it said.  

In its latest news release, the Town of Olds said the purpose of the latest negotiations is to “create a revised agreement with a funding model that is both fair and equitable for both municipalities to operate the Olds Fire Department, ensuring that both municipalities should bear a fair burden so that one municipality is not subsidizing the operational costs of another.”  

"Members of the Inter-Municipal Cooperation Committee (ICC) are looking forward to continued engagement and discussions which will benefit all residents with exceptional fire protection and other related emergency and rescue services, as the agreement revisions are developed,” the release added.  

“The town and county have over 20 years of history working together to deliver fire protection to area residents," Holmes wrote.