The RDEK has signed a 10-year fire protection agreement with the City of Cranbrook for fire protection in the rural areas outside city limits.
The agreement follows a previous 10-year deal between the two local governments, however, the latest contract has a few changes that is structured to ensure some cost certainties for the RDEK.
The new deal has a stipulated 3.75 per cent increase year to year based on the 2017 budget and the forecasted 10-year fire department budget.
An RDEK bylaw stipulates that the maximum tax rate for fire protection is $3/$1,000 of property assessment, while the tax rate under the new fire protection contract sets the ratio at $1.12/$1,000 in 2017, rising to $1.13/$1,000 in 2018.
The fire protection agreement extends to a 13 kilometre radius from the Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services hall within the municipality and will service rural residents in Area C, according to Sanford Brown, the Building and Protective Services Manager for the RDEK.
“It’s very common for us to have agreements for the rural areas around a municipality, so pretty well all the municipalities within the regional district, we have agreements with to provide fire protection so that we’re not doubling up,” Brown said.
“It can be very expensive to operate a fire department and if we can help them by funding them, often the residents around a municipality aren’t as many as in the municipality, it’s just a few rural residents, so if we can pay the municipality, have a contract that helps them and provides a service to our residents, then we’ll do it.”
Fire protection can translate into home insurance savings for rural residents, but there are benefits to the agreement beyond just fire calls, said Rob Gay, the director for Area C and RDEK board chair.
“We also know that most of the call outs are not fire call outs, they’re first responder, so for medical aid, I think it’s vital to have those services,” Gay said. “We have never had an issue with the service, the City of Cranbrook provides a very high quality of service, I’ve never had a complaint on the service or the timing of the service.”
The current agreement will expire at the end of March, which featured funding system over the last 10 years that needed to change in order to adequately plan for future budgets. Under the previous agreement, the RDEK agreed to pay 20 per cent of the fire department budget with no limit on increases or decreases from year to year funding.
“We’d see one year where the cost would escalate because they had to purchase a new fire hall or a new piece of fire apparatus and the next year the cost would decline somewhat,” said Gay, “so there would be this up-and-down cost and it’s very hard for us as residents and as a local government to budget on that.”