Minto and Wellington North to merge fire department administration

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Town of Minto and Township of Wellington North have entered into an agreement to share fire department administration services. 

This comes as a response to an efficiency study of the county and the member municipalities by KPMG. Minto CAO Derrick Thomson said one of the recommendations from the report was to look at synergies in fire department administrations. 

He explained that talks were in place to create a framework combining the administration of Minto, Wellington North and Mapleton fire departments. 

The pandemic disrupted this but with Wellington North fire chief Dave Guilbault retiring, Minto staff recommended moving forward with Wellington North starting June 1 to the end of the year. 

“It’s to the end of the year to sort of suss out hard numbers around efficiencies and some cost savings around the department,” Thomson said. “It’s a great thing around being able to find economy scale equipment, operating costs and training.”

The new administration will be led by current Minto fire chief Chris Harrow who will become the new director of fire services. 

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge and what we’re going to do to form a management team,” Harrow said. “My philosophy has always been to work together as a team and the management team we’re going to have with both departments is key.”

The rest of the full-time team will be deputy chief Marco Guidotti from Wellington North and assistant chief Callise Loos from Minto. 

Thomson said it was important to note that this isn’t a full merger of the two departments, both will remain under the same name and have separate budgets presented to their respective councils. 

“The identity of those communities and those departments remain the same,” Thomson said. “There is no change in that whatsoever, it’s just purely an administration function.”

At Tuesday’s Wellington North council meeting, councillor Sherry Burke expressed her disapproval of this merger and felt that Wellington North should have its own leadership.

Harrow said he understands her concerns but he looks forward to showing the new management team’s leadership capabilities. Harrow said this arrangement will help volunteer firefighters focus on training and responding to calls. 

“The goal of the administration team is to make their lives easier by taking a lot of the administration work off of their shoulders,” Harrow said. “That’s where volunteers can burn out, if you do a call and then you have to do two hours of paperwork after the call that’s tough on them when they want to debrief and go back to their families.”

This partnership will be assessed and could move forward with the original plan to bring Mapelton’s fire department into the administration as well. 

“Mapleton’s assessing what’s best for them and where they want to go in the future,” Harrow said. “That’s definitely a possibility and we’ll definitely look at it when they’re ready or they decide what’s best for their department.”

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