By Kathy Bly
For the Sunny South News
Picture Butte town council moved to squash rumours it is seeking to get rid of the town’s ambulance service and fire department.
At a Sept. 14 council meeting, a letter from the Picture Butte Firefighters Association was reviewed. In the letter, under the signature of Justin Chronik, association president, it was noted, “several of our members have been approached by concerned citizens, local business owners and other local club organizations stating they have heard the Town of Picture Butte will be getting rid of both the ambulance service and fire department.”
In the letter, Chronik asked council to address these rumours and questioned if they were in fact true.
“We as an association feel the nature of these comments, true or not, are not being conveyed in a professional manner, reflect negatively on the organization, as a whole, and are causing the citizens of Picture Butte a great deal of unnecessary concern,” noted Chronik, in the letter. He asked council to confirm the town’s position when it comes to emergency services.
Mayor Wendy Jones said she felt the issue had been addressed at a previous meeting with the association and added the issue needs to be, “put to bed once and for all.”
She said Picture Butte is certainly keeping its fire department and has a contract in place with Alberta Health Services (AHS) for the ambulance service through 2017. She noted past that time even the province isn’t clear on what will be happening with ambulance services.
“We have a long-standing tradition and excellent service,” said Chief Administrative Officer Larry Davidson.
Deputy Mayor Joe Watson said he was surprised to see the letter given that he and the mayor had both answered the questions in the letter with the association.
“We appreciate all the hard work the firefighters do,” the mayor said.
Watson said the issue has been discussed, at length, with representatives of the association and he moved council to direct administration to write a letter confirming the town’s support for the fire department and ambulance services.
Coun. Cathy Moore noted the firefighters association and the fire department are two separate identities and the town needs to address the issues highlighted in the letter. Davidson said the association has no formal authority and the fire chief is the only official representative of the fire department.
For Mayor Jones the issue was simply the firefighters can be assured the town is not getting rid of the department.
“We have to have a fire department according to the Municipal Government Act,” she added.
Coun. Teresa Feist, whose husband serves as the fire chief, asked if the letter to the association could include the option of inviting the firefighters to come to council as a delegation.
“I think we need to go back to basics and get on the same wavelength with the fire department,” added Coun. Moore.
Mayor Jones said it is hard for council to deal with gossip.
Davidson said the comments in the letter are not a reflection of the majority of the association, as he has spoken with a few of the firefighters.
Coun. Moore questioned if the number of firefighters she’s spoke with represent even half of the association’s membership.
In the end, council approved the motion to direct administration to write the letter to the association confirming the town’s support for both the fire department and the ambulance service.