Nova Scotia

Fire report to reignite debate at Halifax regional council

A new report suggests that hiring 52 new firefighters and training 40 new volunteers could cost the city $5 million more a year by 2022. That could add $28 to the property tax bill for the average homeowner. Council to debate Tuesday.

Report suggests hiring 52 firefighters, training 40 volunteers could cost more than $5M a year by 2022

Coun. Waye Mason doesn't think any new firefighters should be hired until more accurate data on response times is gathered. (Cassie Williams/CBC)

Halifax regional councillors face another controversial debate on the municipality's fire service Tuesday as a new report from the department suggests hiring 52 new firefighters and training 40 new volunteers will cost the city more than $5 million a year by 2022.

That could add $28 to the property tax bill for the average homeowner.

This comes after council voted last year against a department proposal to close three stations, and then decided last month not to go ahead with recommendations to replace some career firefighters with volunteers.

Instead, council told the fire department to head back to the drawing board, this time to look at hiring more firefighters.

Officials have come back with a price tag — a steadily increasing financial impact that hits $5.5 million in 2022-23.

"Personally I think there's a happy medium," said Matt Whitman, the city's deputy mayor. "There's something between saving those three stations and spending the world."

More data needed

At least one councillor said he doesn't believe any new firefighters should be hired until more accurate data on response times is gathered.

"We're going to get GPS on the trucks," said Coun. Waye Mason, who represents Peninsula South. "So we'll have a really good idea of how long it takes to respond to a fire."

Mason said the new technology will be installed this spring. He also points out that regional council plans to reconsider the response time standards this summer.  

"The only issue isn't keeping taxes down, it's making sure you can provide adequate fire service," said Mason.  

"But you have to meet the standard and you have to have the data to prove it and we don't have that yet."  

Councillors will debate the latest recommendations from fire officials Tuesday.

Follow CBC's Pam Berman as she tweets from Halifax Regional Council.

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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