By Kirk Starratt
After a period of dormancy for the Kings Partnership Steering Committee, the group is getting back up to speed and is preparing to once again delve into the topic of fire services.
“I think we’re at a crossroads,” County of Kings chief administrative officer Bob Ashley said at the Feb. 7 steering committee meeting.
The partnership formed the Fire Services Task Force in 2006 to explore a comprehensive study into fire services. The study, commissioned by the steering committee, concluded in 63 recommendations concerning how fire services are delivered within the geographic boundaries of Kings.
The fire subcommittee worked with area fire chiefs to address several of the recommendations and Ashley said good progress was being made. However, many important recommendations haven’t been addressed. The chiefs agreed, at the time, to co-operate on all fronts - except with a recommendation concerning governance. The consultants recommended an organizational structure with one chief overseeing the 13 fire departments serving Kings County.
“This would have been a radical restructuring for departments,” Ashley said. “We agreed to put it in the parking lot so long as we could discuss other topics.”
The partnership went into a period of dormancy as the partner municipalities were engaged in a Supreme Court dispute over education funding. However, the partnership is now back on track and Ashley said he and Kentville’s chief administrator, Mark Phillips, have asked the fire chiefs how they could go about picking up where they left off discussing the fire service recommendations. Ashley said a little guidance from the steering committee would be beneficial.
The county and Kentville have been working with the Kentville fire department on some human resource issues. Kings County Coun. Pauline Raven said the message she got was there is a willingness to look at shared administrative functions.
Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum said people involved in the fire service know their business better than politicians do. He suggested getting someone with a background in fire services to help work with local chiefs through some of the recommendations.
Ashley said the chiefs might feel more comfortable working with someone objective, from the outside.
“With something as serious as governance, we might need a facilitator,” Ashley said.
Corkum said if a facilitator were to be used, it would be important for local municipalities to bring in someone the chiefs trust.
“If you ask the chiefs about governance, you might not get the answer you want to hear,” Corkum said.
Wolfville Coun. David Mangle suggested discussing the matter with the fire chiefs before making any decisions. Ashley said they would take the matter to the fire chiefs first.
Berwick Mayor Don Clarke said it might be wise to discuss some of the other recommendations before getting back into governance. He wants the Kings Partnership to proceed with caution.
“I was never convinced there was a need for a governance review,” Clarke said.
County Warden Diana Brothers said local municipalities have good communication with fire departments and it’s important to let the chiefs know the steering committee discussed the governance issue.