TBM fire services looking at $700K increase in expenses in 2022
Toronto Star

The Town of The Blue Mountains fire services will see its expenses increase by over $700,000 in 2022, largely due to the costs of four additional full-time firefighters.

The town estimates that the firefighters will incur a total cost of $520,000 per year, including salary and benefits. Some of the additional expenses in the fire services budget in 2022 include a 4.4 per cent cost of living allowance (COLA) increase, about $50,000 in additional training costs, and $28,000 to transition to new communications software in tandem with Barrie.

The fire department’s expenses will increase from about $1.5 million in 2021 to $2.3 million in 2022.

“We have lost a number of our officers and over the years and as well as a number of our volunteer firefighters,” said Fire Chief Steve Conn at budget deliberations on Dec. 6.

The Town of the Blue Mountains lost half of its volunteer firefighters between 2018 and 2021, prompting staff to request an additional four full-time firefighters in September 2021.

The high costs of living and demand for firefighters in larger markets were cited as primary reasons for the fire department’s loss of volunteers.

The hire of four additional full-time firefighters brings the town’s total from four to eight.

Conn said that the new hires will perform a number of roles, but they will primarily work in fire inspection.

“They’re doing firefighter work, but their main role will be doing fire inspections,” Conn said. “When they’re not doing fire inspections, they’ll be doing other work...helping out with training of the volunteer firefighters.”

“These additional personnel are also available during the day for running [to emergency] calls when a call does come in.”

Coun. Paula Hope, citing concerns about the 2022 budget, asked whether the town might be able to postpone some of the positions.

“As you know, we’re struggling with trying to keep our budget increase as low as possible,” she said. “Of course we would never risk the safety of our residents, of our taxpayers, ever, but...is there any possibility where it could be two firefighters this year and two firefighters next year?”

Conn said that the town needs the additional personnel due to reduced numbers of staff, as well as an expected increase in additional work, such as fire inspections, through 2022.

“We’ve taken on some more recruit firefighters, and typically it takes a couple of years to get them up and trained and to be operational on the trucks,” he said. “So we are at a point right now where we do need these personnel to do the additional work.”

Council unanimously approved the inclusion of the fire services budget in the 2022 draft budget.

An updated draft of the 2022 budget will be available to the public on Jan. 12, reflecting the decisions made by council through budget deliberations.

The draft budget will be subject to a public meeting Feb. 7.


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