Halton Hills and North Halton newspapers
Fire committee overstepped its authority, says councillor
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 29 Nov 2006, p. 14

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Recent decisions made by the fire services and emergency plan committee went beyond its purview, declared Wards 1&2 Regional Councillor Clark Somerville at a recent council meeting.

Somerville questioned council approval of the minutes of the fire services committee, effectively rubber-stamping decisions that the five person committee made.

The decisions involved:

·appointing Deputy Chief John Martin as acting fire chief

·ordering staff to advertise internally, locall and nationally for the vacant fire chief position, and that hiring selection be referred to the new council in December

·directing staff to work with the Halton Amateur Radio Club to investigate a replacement vehicle for the club

· purchasing equipment (up to $84,000) to be used as a fire operations training facility

Somerville said decisions were made that other council members, not on the committee, did not have an opportunity to ask questions about and the first they've heard of them is by reading the minutes in that evening's council agenda.

"There is a flaw in the process, the way this was done," said Somerville, who was backed by fellow regional councillor Jane Fogal.

"When you see budget items for $84,000, disposition of assets and appointments, that's the purview of council to do that."

In particular, the councillor was concerned about discussion that centred around contributing a town trailer to the Halton Amateur Radio Club (HARC) for its mobile communications vehicle.

HARC had sent a ltter to the fire department in September noting that its current vehicle is aging and requesting that the Town not only supply a surplus replacement vehicle but the Town continue with its upkeep.

In a report sent to the committee only, the fire department stated it did not have any vehicles suitable for the club's needs. But given HARC's role in the Town's Emergency Plan and service at community events such as the fair could be jeopardized without a mobile command centre, the fire department recommended to the committee.

"There is no financial obligation at this point."

Johnson also pointed out that committee only agreed to go ahead to advertise for a new chief -- the hiring decision remains with council.

The fire department has been given the go-ahead to purchase inter-modal shipping containers and have them custom-modified for use as a fire operations training for about $84,000. Council , she said, had already included $110,000 in 2006 budget for a fire training facility.

Somerville, unappeased, said the decisions still should have been made by full council and were not in the purview of the committee, adding if committees are going to take on a different role then that's a discussion should be held in council first.

Chief Administrative Officer Dennis Perlin agreed in the future to circulate the committee's agenda and reports to all council members before it meets, and to circulate its minutes to all members before it comes to a council meeting for ratification.

"It's a wise approach, if one is going to use a committee as means of dealing with items of business," said Perlin. "But just to be sure there's no misunderstanding, the matter is here (at council) for adoption, not just for receipt and nothing would have happened unless council adopted those items."

(Cynthia Gamble can be reached at cgamble@independentfreepress.com)

Cynthia Gamble
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29 Nov 2006
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Halton Amateur Radio Club,
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Fire committee overstepped its authority, says councillor