New Brunswick

Fire departments question regionalized services

Boundary lines have been drawn to regionalize services in New Brunswick.

Boundary lines have been drawn to regionalize services in New Brunswick, but not without concerns from community fire departments.

Twelve new regional service commissions will come into force next January to help with "collaboration, communication and planning among communities," according to a news release.

However, the provincial government is moving slowly on regionalizing fire services after concerns were raised by chiefs.

There's already regional co-operation on fire services in some communities.

For example, the village of New Maryland and several nearby local service districts share the cost of buying and operating the village's fire trucks.

But New Maryland Fire Chief Harry Farrell and other chiefs told the province they had concerns about recruiting volunteer firefighters for a more regional service.

"It wouldn't be ownership to them if it's going under a bigger centre, something like that," Farrell said.

Fire not mandated regional service

Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch said fire services are not one of the mandated services that the new regional commissions must provide.

The mandated services include planning, solid waste management, collaboration on policing, emergency measures and cost-sharing of infrastructure such as sport arenas.

"The commissions will serve communities and be governed by them, creating accountability to taxpayers in all regions," Fitch said at an announcement Thursday.

Fitch said the government wants to let communities preserve their own identities.

"We found that fire is so locally-driven, it is so local that to bring it to a larger level just at this point in time didn't seem to be feasible. But certainly it's an opportunity in the future," Fitch said.

Oromocto Mayor Faye Tidd said the new commissions will build on existing co-operation among communities.

"We already have seen a fire up in Lincoln, for instance, where services from Fredericton come down. Flooding across the river. Everybody gets involved in things like that," Tidd said.

The mayors of cities, towns and village who are elected this May will automatically get seats on the new regional service commissions.

Local service districts will be able to recommend representatives to be appointed by the minister.