Beaverton firefighters withdraw donation of aerial unit after private meeting with Township officials

The Beaverton Thorah Firefighters’ Association has withdrawn its donation of an aerial unit following a second private meeting with members of council and staff in little more than a week.

While slated to make a public presentation during a special meeting of council on Monday (March 26) afternoon, those plans have been shelved following a meeting at the municipal office at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (March 22) night. According to a source that was in attendance, the meeting included Mayor John Grant, Regional Councillor Ted Smith, Ward 4 Councillor Therese Miller, CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby and Fire Chief Rick Harrison as well as five firefighters.

The Association released a statement little more than an hour later noting that Township representatives gave a very clear indication of where the vote was going to go.

“The Association has remained committed to working with the Township on a solution to the donation of an aerial device. We understand that there could be implications with the donation although many other options were presented,” it reads.

“With this said, at this time, the Township has decided not likely to support the aerial device donation or options of currently obtaining one. The donation has been withdrawn as we do not want to waste any more time, for both sides,  on this issue, as we have been told the answer would likely be ‘no’ at both meetings that were conducted in the last few weeks.”

Members of the Association still firmly believe that an aerial device is desperately needed and they will continue to work with the Township, forming a committee to develop a plan for the future purchase.

“The Association does believe that an aerial device is needed as soon as possible and are disappointed a solution could not be reached with the Township to obtain a device immediately…This committee will allow all parties involved to come up with a good solid plan on a brand new elevated device and continue to work in partnership towards this goal, again as soon as possible,” it reads.

The aerial unit purchased by the Association will be returned to the dealer.

“There will be no financial impact to the association as the company has assured us that the donated truck will be put back up for sale,” it reads.

“The Association would like to thank all the members of the public for all their support on this matter and rest assured, the municipality will soon have this much needed increased capacity, hopefully sooner rather than later. At the end of the day, the Beaverton-Thorah Firefighters’ Association’s main goal is to protect and serve our community to the absolute fullest.”

The Association was initially supposed to make a deputation at last Monday’s (March 19) council meeting, though those plans were shelved following a meeting with Mayor Grant, Gettinby and Chief Harrison a few days prior.

Mayor Grant referenced that meeting during the council session.

“We exchanged some information that neither party was aware of at the time…They thought it was best to withdraw from the meeting this week,” he told his council colleagues.

In an interview following the meeting, he explained that the core issue was development charges.

“When I found out about it and members of council and other members of staff, we realized that such a donation would cause issues with using development charges in three years to buy a brand new (aerial unit),” Mayor Grant said.

“According to the laws of the Province of Ontario (the Development Charges Act) and the interpretations of regulations subsequent to, you cannot use development charges to replace existing (assets).”

With respect to improvements, Mayor Grant said development charges could be used “a little bit” but noted he did not know what percentage that would represent.

He went on to say that Hemson Consulting Firm, responsible for preparing the Township’s development charges bylaw had confirmed this belief. He said he had the confirmation in writing and would be able to provide it.

Gettinby later said that while he had spoken to the Township’s consultant, this opinion “was my review of the Act as well.” He said there is no written confirmation from Hemson regarding the matter but did provide a copy of a March 16 memo he had sent to Mayor Grant.

According to Gettinby, if the Township does not have an aerial unit, they would be able to completely fund the purchase of a new one through development charges. While other services see a 10 per cent offset in the amount eligible to be paid for by these charges, Gettinby says that does not apply to fire service.

The Development Charges Act of Ontario states, with respect to the determination of development charges, “the increase in the need for service attributable to the anticipated development must be estimated for each service to which the development charge by-law would relate.”

Furthermore, the Act states “the increase in the need for service must be reduced by the extent to which an increase in service to meet the increased need would benefit existing development. The extent to which an increase in service would benefit existing development may be governed by the regulations.”

In his memo to Mayor Grant, Gettinby wrote that staff have estimated the cost of a new aerial to be approximately $950,000.

“Based on the percentage allocation to the fire department, this would provide approximately $500,000 toward the purchase. On the basis of the consultant’s comments, with a donated aerial in our fleet, this amount would be reduced by at least $250,000 and potentially much lower,” wrote Gettinby.

It continues by noting that the consultant believes it would be difficult to fund a new aerial unit if it is being considered a one-to-one replacement.

“If it is a direct one-to-one replacement, it would be difficult, in his opinion, to defend funding of a new aerial from the development charges. He has further indicated that if the new aerial was included for full, or partial development charge funding under the 2019 background study, the Township would be at risk of the bylaw being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board,” wrote Gettinby.

The 2019 background study has yet to be completed. The 2014 development charge policy report did not identify an aerial unit.

Gettinby’s memo continues to address the question of how the use of development charges would be impacted if the donated aerial was replaced with one with a longer ladder or increased water capacity.

“Under this scenario, the new aerial would have greater servicing capacity or abilities than the donated aerial. In this case it would no longer be considered a one-to-one replacement and would justify the consideration of a share of the cost of acquiring the new aerial as providing increased servicing capacity which would qualify for the use of development charges. However, he (the consultant) stated that it is very unlikely that the development charge eligible share would be higher than 50 per cent and potentially much lower and that the share must be reasonable and defensible as it could be challenged.”

Please check back for more information as it becomes available.

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