Murray River Fire Department to strike out on its own
By Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative reporterDepartment News Headlines News fire department
Aug. 30, 2023, Murray River, P.E.I. – The Murray River Fire Department is one step closer to becoming a fire company, independent from the rural municipal council.
The municipality has drafted an agreement to sell the fire hall, 1.56 acres of surrounding property on Dover Road, trucks, and other equipment for $1 to the fire department providing it incorporates in accordance with the Rural Communities Fire Companies Act.
“Services won’t change,” said Fire Chief Troy Ferguson. “We’ll continue to do the same as we have for 30 years.”
The department is owned by the municipality but has generally been operated independent of council.
“The status quo, of having a fire department but not actively managing its affairs, is not an option,” stated a notice from the municipality, currently run by official trustee Robert Hughes with assistance from CAO Paula Pater-Voogel.
“The municipality must either become much more involved in the operation of the fire department, to fulfill its legal obligation, or it must allow the fire department to separate and incorporate.”
Ferguson said incorporating will be the best option for the department to avoid red tape and slow processes associated with a more involved council.
The department may not be able to access more money through grants, he said, but the application process, for example, could be smoother.
Fire dues will remain the same for at least five years, according to the draft memorandum of agreement between the department and the municipality.
The community has asked the department to return the land to the municipality if it decides to move.
“We didn’t agree to that – if in 10 years’ time we want to move, we would need the funds (from selling the property) to do so,” Ferguson said. The department has no current intention to move, but he wants to be cautious in case that changes well into the future.
The municipality also asked the department to ensure a member of the council has a seat on the fire company’s board.
“It’s not a definite ‘no’ there,” Ferguson said. The department has not gone through the process of deciding how the board will be formed or who will have a guaranteed seat. The department will nail down these details as they go through the incorporation process.
The municipality’s official trustee will host a special public meeting on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Northumberland Arena to hear input.
Hughes will make a final and single-handed decision at a meeting on Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. This is planned to take place at the Murray River Library but the location could change if interest exceeds capacity.
Call 902 741-200 no later than noon on Sept. 7 to register in advance.
–The Eastern Graphic
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