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Saint John eyes regional fire service

Saint John is considering regionalizing all or parts of its fire department with surrounding municipalities as it attempts to pare down its budget.

Saint John is considering regionalizing its fire department with surrounding municipalities as it attempts to pare down its budget.

Saint John is about to hire a new fire chief and there's an opportunity to reduce costs by sharing the new chief with the other fire departments in nearby communities, according to one councillor.

The city carries the burden of protecting heavy industry and a liquefied natural gas terminal and its annual budget is more than $20 million.

Saint John Coun. Bill Farren said with the city about to hire a new fire chief, it's a good time to see if there's an opportunity to save money by regionalizing its service.

"Why don't we regionalize with the Rothesay department and by that I mean, why don't we have one chief," Farren said.

The Saint John councillor said having one fire chief for the two communities would be a foundation on which the communities could build a fully regional department.

"Rothesay, Quispamsis, Grand Bay, they would save money by not having a chief and we would save money by not having a chief," Farren said.

"We would be all in one pool. Everybody puts their proportionate share in, similar to the regional facilities."

Saint John has had a high-profile battle to pare down its budget. The city has already asked its union to take wage freezes and reductions in their benefits.

The fire department, which is the largest single expense in the city's operating budget, was asked by city councillors to voluntarily put off getting new dress uniforms, which they get every five years as part of their union contract.

Regional service would cost more: mayor

The concept of a regional fire service is not winning any converts in the Kennebecasis Valley.

Quispamsis Mayor Murray Driscoll said he fears a regional fire service would increase costs in his community.

"I would see no reason why we would go from a very low cost department to a higher cost," Driscoll said.

In December, Gerry Maher resigned from Quispamsis council, leaving behind a legacy of fighting for regional amalgamation.

Maher had wanted a study to examine the amalgamation between Quispamsis and Rothesay.

The Department of Local Government announced this week it would hold public meetings around the idea of enhancing local governance.