By Maria Spitale-Leisk
Mission council was critical of some public feedback on the district’s 2013 budget, relating to fire department staffing levels.
At Monday (Nov. 19) evening’s council meeting, Coun. Jeff Jewell spoke first during a discussion on the receipt of the comments, saying the pattern disturbs him. Jewell figured 21 out of the 28 resident submissions focused on one issue: increasing the number of full-time firefighters in the district.
“What seems very clear to me is that we are being subjected to a coordinated campaign by the partisans of the fire department who want to see the expansion of the fire department,” said Jewell. “And they are doing this by a campaign of fear mongering to get citizens afraid that they are not safe.”
Coun. Dave Hensman echoed councillor Jewell’s sentiments.
“But I want to say as well to the writers of this creative writing exercise that we’re not stupid and we see through the guise,” said Hensman. “And the community of Mission is not stupid either.”
Capping off the discussion, Mayor Ted Adlem reflected on discussions he had with Mission Fire/Rescue Service ahead of last year’s election.
“I feel I made every effort to work with them, said Adlem. “However, recent activity leads me to believe that, to put it politely, I was kind of conned. So I wasn’t going to say this tonight, but I am going to say it: The full-time firefighting force in the District of Mission has lost the support of this mayor.”
After the meeting, Adlem said the department didn’t like the zero per cent tax increase platform that his Citizens for Responsible Municipal Government slate ran in the election.
“We’re talking about holding the line on spending and that doesn’t meet with their objectives of increasing their members,” said Adlem.
Norm MacLeod, president of IAFF Local 4768, which represents full-time Mission firefighters, said people were encouraged to send comments to council through a message on the union’s Facebook page.
“It was actually my wording,” said MacLeod, of the duplicated messages sent to the district. “It was no way intended to be a letter-writing campaign.”
The bottom line, said MacLeod, is the union’s goal of working with council and the municipality to improve fire protection.
He referred to the Master Fire Plan developed in 2008 when Mission moved to a composite model, which has full-time and paid on-call firefighters. The plan was to hire four full-time firefighters annually over four years. Eight were hired between 2009-2010; now, they are calling for eight more.
It’s about the ability to have a quicker response time, said MacLeod.
Currently, evening fire calls are tackled by on-call firefighters. The extra eight full-time members would allow for a fully staffed hall at night.