Halifax council votes against proposed fire station closures
HALIFAX – Months of talk surrounding possible closures of Halifax-area fire stations culminated Tuesday with city council voting to keep the stations open — but it’s a decision that could prove costly.
Halifax Fire Chief Doug Trussler faced council for a third time to explain why three first stations and four rural stations should be closed to save money. Councillors again expressed concerns, saying their constituents didn’t want to lose the services.
After the vote to keep all the stations open, District 5 Councillor Gloria McCluskey said she was happy the station on King Street in Dartmouth had been saved.
“I was worried about the risks with all the seniors [in downtown Dartmouth] and with all the new development going on there,” she said. “We need our own fire station.”
Trussler said now that he has clear direction from council, it’s time for him to move forward.
“I gave them my best professional advice. That’s my job,” he said. “Their job is to make a decision on that advice and they have.”
He added that decision does come with a hefty price tag — in addition to an existing recommendation to hire 20 new firefighters, he said 39 more will be needed to keep the stations open, which will cost about $6 million.
“That’s for salaries and benefits to staff the firefighters and that’s their fourth-year rate,” he said. “We use that rate because…when we hire firefighters initially they’re about half the cost of a fourth-year first-class firefighter.”
McCluskey said she was fine with the cost increase.
“If that means we have to increase the tax rate, then we have to, but had we followed the recommendation in 2006, we wouldn’t be looking at hiring any new firefighters. We just cut back over the years,” she said.
District 8 Councillor Jennifer Watts said while there might be a tax rate increase, she didn’t think it would affect everybody.
Trussler said council allocates the extra money, he can have all stations fully staffed in the next year.
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