West Hants Warden called emergency council meeting
Although the Windsor Fire Department has been without an agreement with the Municipality of West Hants for about four years, the volunteer firefighting force continues to provide service and mutual aid to rural residents.
It’s not over until it’s over.
The provincial government is open to the idea of appointing a mediator to help sort out the fire services contract between the Municipality of West Hants and the Windsor Fire Department (WFD).
Municipal Affairs Minister Mark Furey confirmed the provincial government is willing to get involved in the stalled fire services negotiations in an e-mail sent to the Hants Journal May 21.
“We are monitoring the situation in West Hants given the public safety considerations related to the provision of fire protection and services. We are prepared to provide support for third-party mediation providing the parties involved (Town of Windsor, District of West Hants, and Fire Department) agree and support this process,” said Furey.
“Government sees value in the provision of shared regional services and encourages municipalities to explore that kind of arrangement where it makes sense.”
West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee, the first to inform the public of the government’s offer to the municipality, called an emergency council meeting for May 23 after learning Municipal Affairs is willing to intervene.
Dauphinee stressed that it will be up to council as a whole to decide if they wish to accept Furey’s offer.
“I’m going to be recommending that to our council but I’m only one vote,” the warden said.
This new development comes about a week after West Hants council voted 6-3 in favour of parting ways with the Windsor Fire Department, and creating a new, stand-alone fire service in West Hants.
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If council is open to allowing a mediator to come in, the motion calling on West Hants to end its service contract with the WFD would be put on the backburner, Dauphinee said.
“If they agree to mediation, you wouldn’t proceed. You would leave it alone until the mediation ended.”
Having someone from the outside take a look at the situation, and guide the parties through a transparent negotiating process, may lead to a long-awaited resolution, Dauphinee added.
“Fresh eyes might be a real good thing.”
Hants West MLA Chuck Porter is the catalyst behind the provincial government taking an interest in the local fire services issues that have many residents fired up.
Porter, who encouraged citizens to share their concerns with their elected officials, Municipal Affairs and Premier Stephen McNeil, called on the provincial government to get involved following the public outcry in response to West Hants council’s recent decision to end its long-standing partnership with the Windsor Fire Department.
“I’m hopeful that we can move forward and I’m pleased that the minister and his department have saw fit to appoint someone to come in and help us out,” said Porter.
“It’s very important.”