A new collective agreement, secretarial support, and in-house traffic control are some of the new elements Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley bid for in his department’s budget.
Wages for the new collective agreement will be almost eight per cent more than last year, raising crew costs from $1.95 million in 2011 to $2.1 million in 2012. Firefighters’ salaries are now in line with others across the province.
Pley also made a pitch for half-time secretarial support at $40,000 per year. The position was a recommendation made in a report by consultant Dougal Smith last year.
The department already receives part-time support from a city staffer, but the savings are negated by the city hiring a casual employee to back fill their work.
Pley said he’s had cursory discussions with regional departments about melding with the city’s record management system.
The department also needs traffic control at major incidents, and Pley budgeted $5,000 for such.
Pley also budgeted for several capital projects, the largest of which is $50,000 for a repeater system that would enable firemen to communicate independently instead of clogging up the 911 line that they use.
At $35,000, replacing the firehall’s upstairs bathroom is the second costliest project.
He suggested that $35,000 be baked into the budget every year for four years to re-fit the Valley’s tsunami warning system. The cost would allow one unit per year to be refurbished, with a new unit built from cannibalized parts in the fifth year.
Three smaller projects costing $15,000 each are also on the books.
The department is starting to deal more often with older buildings in the city, and that means extra man hours, principally for the fire inspector, he noted.
Coun. Hira Chopra questioned the cost of the secretarial position. “If you survived before you can survive without extra help,” he said.
Pley responded that council deferred the recommendation from the Dougal Smith report, which said such a position is common in other departments.
Coun. Cindy Solda asked if there were grants available for refitting the tsunami warning system. Pley replied no.
Coun. Dan Washington asked what effect reducing a crew size from four to three would have on homeowners insurance. None, Pley replied, but major industry insurance rates would increase. And because of WorkSafe B.C. regulations require that if three members showed up at a fire they would have to wait for a fourth.