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Future of possible fire storage facility dependent on upcoming council report

A new fire structure could be coming to Boblo Island, but that will come after a follow-up report comes before council.

The new building will be replacing a structure that is deteriorating on the island. Some council members had concerns about the cost, which deputy CAO and director of development services Melissa Osborne said would be covered 100 per cent through development charges, but a vote to strike it from the budget failed on a 4-3 vote. Opposed to removing it were Mayor Michael Prue, Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb, Councillor Don McArthur and Councillor Linden Crain while voting to remove it were Councillor Molly Allaire, Councillor Diane Pouget and Councillor Peter Courtney.

A follow-up motion was passed to table the matter and the final decision to move forward or not will come after that report is debated.

“It was my understanding the developer was to provide a structure for the fire truck,” said Pouget.

Pouget added she has seen the current structure, and it is in poor condition. She was concerned with the amount of development charge money being devoted to the project.

“It looks like it was put together with band-aids and bubble gum,” she said.

Fire chief Bruce Montone said the developer is under no obligation to house the vehicle, but made an offer to do so in 2018. As the dance hall is no longer an option due to issues pertaining to hydro and heritage, a temporary structure was erected. He added it is the “first piece” on a fire protection plan for the island and that included protecting the fire truck that is stationed there.

“It is not a fire station,” he emphasized. “It’s a storage facility.”

Montone added the current facility is not heated and has rodent issues, stating firefighters have found rodents in the truck before. The truck is an older vehicle that was taken out of service on the mainland and will be replaced with a tanker that is also soon to be removed from service.

A 22-foot boat is available to transport firefighters if necessary as is a tugboat if there is a freeze-over of the Detroit River.

McArthur questioned why the price was as high as it was, with Montone explaining the 24’x44’ building needs a concrete floor, water, heat, drainage and washroom, the latter of which will be able to be accessed from the exterior as well.

Courtney indicated he had “grave concerns” with constructing the structure at this time, noting issues with the ferry and access to the island are part of his issues with putting up the structure. He questioned how many people and how much property could be saved with one truck on the island. Developing the south end of the island only adds to his questions, he added.

Prue pointed out there is an in-camera meeting planned for Jan. 29 where town council is expected to receive an update on the ferry situation.

Allaire wanted to know where the money would go if the structure didn’t go up, with Osborne stating it would stay in the fire department’s development charges reserve. She said it can only be used for specific purposes, citing the structure and equipment such as radios as examples.

Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb said safety concerns are the first thing council members hear about when the ferry goes down, and when presented with a step to keep fire services on the island, there are concerns then as well.

“Now we don’t want to do this either,” he said.

Montone added this situation was the solution proposed by a previous town council and the Amherstburg Fire Department is trying to fulfill that direction.

“The fact a vehicle is over there was council’s direction, not ours,” he said.

Montone stated as the structure would be funded by development charges, it does not impact the tax rate.

Gibb asked what Montone’s preferred option would be and the matter was tabled until the full report could return.

By Ron Giofu

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