MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Mountain View County will pay the Town of Olds $308,890.60 in 2023 for its operating cost share of the town’s fire department under a new four-year fire services sub-agreement, say officials.
Both Mountain View County council and the Town of Olds council approved the new agreement during 20 minute joint special council meeting held in county council chambers on Dec. 20. The previous agreement was set to expire at the end of 2023 and set out funding and service levels shared by the municipalities.
Negotiations for the new agreement have been underway for some time through the municipalities’ intermunicipal cooperation committee (ICC).
In July of 2021, Town of Olds council served formal notice to Mountain View County that it may withdraw fire services to the county in two years if the county didn't agree to pay more under the agreement. Olds council decided to rescind the notice during an Aug. 22, 2022 council meeting on the advice of administrative staff.
During the talks, the Town of Olds had asked for a “substantially more than we are paying now” and for mediation, both of which the county had rejected, said then reeve Bruce Beattie.
The new agreement includes updated areas such as mutual aid, funding arrangements, and false alarm policy. The agreement is tied to the intermunicipal collaboration framework master agreement between the parties.
During the Dec. 20 council meeting, the county's chief administrative officer, Jeff Holmes, outlined some of the key points of the new agreement.
“Over the course of the last year and a bit we have been going over some re-negotiations of our fire services sub-sub-agreement, looking for new ways to share services and save our ratepayers tax money and try to do the most efficient service delivery that we can,” said Holmes.
Under the agreement, fire oversight will be managed and administered by the Town of Olds with a quarterly reporting structure to Mountain View County on statistics and fire responses within the rural area, he said.
The agreement includes a five-year small capital plan to help plan out future purchases to “ensure that the fire department is equipped with the tools they need to complete their job.”
It also includes a 10-year capital apparatus plan that looks at historical capital contributions and lists the large capital inventory that is part of the Olds fire department, he said.
The agreement also calls for the town to provide the county with wildland and structure fire information within 30 days of an incident, “which allows the county to determine any reimbursement of services provided in the rural area, at its sole discretion. The town would have the same sole discretion within their boundaries,” he said
Regarding the shared costs arrangement, Holmes said, “We have tried to simplify the financial administration piece of the agreement and we have gone to a flat rate contribution from Mountain View County to the Town of Olds that is respective of historical populations, historical call volumes, historical times of response, trying to find a fair and equitable way to share the costs, he said.
The shared cost arrangement section of the new agreement states that the “town and the county agree that the budgeted and approved costs for the supply of fire services within the fire service area shall be shared between the town and county in the following manner: annual operating transfer: the county shall remit to the town an amount of $308,890.60 for its operating cost share of the town’s fire department.”
It also states that the annual operating transfer “shall be increased annual by a percentage calculated by identifying the average consumer price index published by Statistics Canada for all items in the province of Alberta over the previous three years.”
Regarding mutual aid outside the Olds fire district, the new agreement includes a mechanism where the county will compensated the Town of Olds for the manpower costs related to mutual aid calls outside the district “when those mutual aid calls are in excess to any mutual aid calls provided by other departments (ie: Didsbury, Sundre, Carstairs) with the rural boundary,” he said.
Revenues received from Alberta Transportation for responses by the department will be applied against the small capital equipment costs incurred in the fiscal year.
Regarding false alarms, the agreement states that both parties will “work together to mitigate their occurrence and impact” and will “endeavour to update and enforce their respective false alarm policies and/or bylaw, including the punitive fees for offences.”
In a press release issued following the council meeting, Mountain View County reeve Angela Aalbers said, “The agreement provides a predictable and sustainable service structure and the continuation of the high level of fire services that are shared between Mountain View County and the Town of Olds’ rural fire district.”
In the same release, Olds mayor Judy Dahl said, “With fire protection services, stability and sustainability are of the utmost importance. This agreement achieves that for both the town and the county while also benefiting the entire Olds region.”