RM of Edenwold opening new fire hall, neighbouring town questions necessity

The Rural Municipality (R.M.) of Edenwold broke ground on the site of a new Emerald Park fire hall on Friday.

Construction on the fire hall is expected to be completed by 2022 and is budgeted at $1.8 million.

The R.M. said they have been collecting money through development fees over 10 years and have grown a reserve account to over $1.05 million. The remaining $750,000 will be paid for using the municipality’s reserve and general revenue accounts.

It will be staffed by volunteer firefighters from Emerald Park and surrounding areas. So far, eight people have already stepped up to the plate.

The hall will be run by Pilot Butte Fire Chief Kevin Dell who has started training the eight new recruits.

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The announcement comes in the midst of neighbouring town White City awaiting a decision from the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) after it submitted an application for boundary alteration, typically referred to as annexation.

“Basically what that means is that the town would seek through the application to expand its boundaries. And as a result of that, some of the lands that are currently within the R.M. would then become within the boundary of White City,” mayor Brian Fergusson explained.

Emerald Park is a community within the R.M. of Edenwold.

A hearing on Nov. 18 by the SMB will consider if the town’s application was filed under the wrong section of the Municipalities Act, in response to a challenge by the R.M, Fergusson said.

Fergusson said the hearing on the merits of the application won’t happen until sometime in early 2022.

“Municipalities that are growing need to have areas that they can then develop to have that growth to continue. At the current time, the town of White City is bounded by 55 per cent of its border by the R.M. and therefore not allowing the town to continue to expand.

“But more concerning is that the R.M.’s official community plan indicates that they expect to encumber White City’s borders by 85 per cent within their planning horizon.”

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Essentially we become a donut hole and they become the donut and completely surround us and give us few options to grow,” Fergusson said.

R.M. of Edenwold Reeve Mitch Huber called this old discussion and said he had no response.

As for the new fire hall, Fergusson raised concern that all the fire halls in the area, including White City, Pilot Butte and Balgonie halls, are staffed by volunteer firefighters and there is a limited pool of them to draw from.

“By creating another fire hall and stating that it’s going to improve service, the concern is that by tapping into that limited volunteer base that would actually degrade service and make it more difficult for the White City Fire Department to have the necessary volunteers to provide the excellent service it does today.”

Fergusson said the R.M can decide how they want to spend their own money, but questioned if that money could be spent elsewhere given that there is an existing fire hall less than four kilometres away in White City..

“There are strong questions about whether it’s really necessary to construct that fire hall, spend that money and possibly actually harm service, not improve it,” Fergusson added.

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He pointed to a furnace fire two weeks ago that only six out 21 volunteer fire fighters were able to attend.

Huber said he does believe there is a need for another fire hall and this new one will lead to a better response time that covers more area.

“We’ve got a small population over a vast area. We’re not as high a density as cities are,” Huber explained.

He also doesn’t think there will be limitations to finding volunteers to staff the fire hall.

“We’re going to walk before we run as we get into this, but it’s a great stepping stone. But we needed this facility to start with. So we’re building the hall, (and) as the construction of the hall develops and happens over the course of the next…six months, we will be recruiting new staff members,” Huber said.

Dell said access into the area is limited right through the middle of White City which leads to a little slower response times.

“With all the growth out here and further east from here, depending on call volumes and situations they place halls wherever they’re needed, not necessarily by distance,” Dell explained.

Click to play video: 'White City moves forward with annexation proposal'
White City moves forward with annexation proposal

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