The vote was as slim as they come at Timmins city council, but the city will in fact spend $2-million dollars to integrate fire services into an EMS facility to be built at Northern College.

It was a heated argument from both sides, which resulted in multiple Points of Orders raised—a phrase that has become commonplace this council term—and a new Deputy Mayor that asserted his position multiple times to keep the debate honest and to the point.

Councillor Walter Wawrzaszek and Mayor Steve Black exchanged seats at the very beginning so Black could enter the discussion.

The final vote was 5-4.  But comes with a condition that if the city’s cost goes over the $2-million, the college has an opportunity to either cover the difference or opt out of the fire hall component altogether.

Black amended the original resolution so the city won’t have to pay an opt out fee either.

Councillor Joe Campbell called it “smoke and mirrors.”

Councillor Pat Bamford likes the move overall, calling it “unique” to have a complex combine with an educational centre.

“Synergies, partnerships of this kind are now considered the best economic use of taxpayers dollars,” he said.

Those against the move argue while this is a great investment for Northern, the same can’t be said for the city.  Especially with the city trying to cut down a budget that stands at a major increase at the moment.  (They’ll continue to hack and slash on Wednesday during budget deliberations.)

Others stated that this money should come from the provincial and the federal governments, as they are the ones that fund educational institutions.

Black argues this isn’t funding for the education sector, it’s “funding to develop a fire hall.”

Fire Chief Mike Pintar doesn’t agree with the move.

He says when volunteers with the hall get a call, they have to travel to the station to get gear and then head out to the call.  He says only five firefighters live behind Porcupine Mall and would benefit from being closer to the station.

Pintar adds about 75% of their fire calls happen east of the King Street bridge, and two-thirds of the firefighters live across that bridge too.

“It will increase our (response) times,” Pintar said.

Campbell pointed out that with or without the city’s financial support, this building is going up.

However, some confusion came about when Northern College President Fred Gibbons—who was at council as a spectator—was asked to come forward.

Gibbons says if the city opted out, he would have to talk with the province and the federal government to see if they’ll proceed.

Councillor Rick Dubeau questioned it, believing the money was there regardless.

There was a bit of back and forth, but Gibbons made it clear the funding was never guaranteed if the city’s decided to opt out.

We won’t have to worry about that…not yet at least.

The final vote showed as such:

  • For (5): Councillors Bamford, Mike Doody, Veronica Farrell, Andrew Marks and Black
  • Against (4): Councillors Campbell, Dubeau, Noella Rinaldo and Wawrzaszek

CLICK HERE to view the full discussion, under Item 4C.

Filed under: Local News