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SH looks at strategic plan for fire services

By Scott Nixon, Times-Advocate staff

SOUTH HURON — The municipality has received a number of recommendations coming out of a strategic plan for its fire department.

Greg Keating of GKC and Associates spoke at South Huron council’s Nov. 5 meeting to present his “Municipality of South Huron Fire Service Strategic Direction.”

Keating explained that he met with the South Huron fire chief and deputy chiefs and toured the facilities in July. Meetings were also held with members of council in August.

Keating compared South Huron’s fire services costs with six other municipalities and said South Huron’s per household fire service costs were the lowest at $117. The other municipalities surveyed were North Huron (which had the highest expenses at $283 per household), East Perth, North Perth, Southwold, Central Huron and Huron East.

Keating said South Huron’s costs are extremely low and cost effective, adding the municipality’s fire service meets the requirements under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, but he added those interviewed during his study expressed the need to enhance fire prevention in the municipality.

Keating said there is a need in South Huron for additional training facilitators and said there is inconsistent training between stations, with non-existent or incomplete training records.

He added there are deficiencies in the communications system, although the municipality is working on improving that (see below). Keating also called for additional fire hydrants and said there are some safety concerns with the department’s safety vans.

He said South Huron needs to review the locations of its various stations and recommended a replacement for the Dashwood station and significant repairs to Huron Park’s fire hall.

Keating suggested the municipality review its fire protection agreements with Bluewater and Grand Bend and that South Huron consider buying a computer program to analyze deployment and response times from existing and potential station locations.

Another recommendation was the implementation of a succession plan “in anticipation of the impending retirement of the fire chief.”

Keating also recommended a training analysis and called for more equitable on-call compensation for firefighters and that additional funding be considered for the 2013 budget meet some of the objectives.

Other council notes:

New communications system

In related news, council approved a new communications system for its municipal departments at a cost of $107,817.95 plus HST.

As fire chief John Morgan said in his report to council, a communications committee consisting of staff and Deputy Mayor Jim Dietrich concluded South Huron needed to upgrade its communication system to digital. The municipality sent out five requests for proposals and received three back: the aforementioned Spectrum bid, and bids from Perth Communications for $149,993.70 plus HST and from BTR for $90,518.46 plus HST.

Morgan said municipal managers and Hardy agreed the operating system proposed by Spectrum was “superior and would be the best choice to accept.”

The municipality had budget $90,000 for the project which included a $17,500 grant, resulting in a shortfall of $17,817.95. Morgan recommended the outstanding balance come from the municipality’s Capital Replacement Reserve.

Exeter Cemetery Expansion

As previously reported the municipality is planning for a future expansion of the Exeter Cemetery, which would be situated on the south side of Thames Road across from the existing location. Mike Leonard of Lees and Associates recently spoke to council about the expansion.

He said the existing cemetery has served the area for over 100 years and the 20-acre expansion will last at least that long. He showed drawings for the expansion, which will go ahead in four phases starting at the southwest portion of the property.

The expansion calls for tree plantings with additional esthetic features and stormwater management.

“You’re certainly well provided for a long time in the future,” Leonard said.

He suggested the earlier the municipality gets started on the trees, the better.

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