County of Stettler unhappy with speed of fire department talks
The County of Stettler council is unhappy with the speed of mediation with the Town of Stettler over major changes to a shared fire department.
Councillors decided to jumpstart the process themselves with resolutions at their May 10 regular meeting.
After a presentation from Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy describing the process of mediation between the County of Stettler and Town of Stettler over the town’s decision to leave the joint fire agreement and joint fire chief agreement, councillors heard there hasn’t been much to speak of.
Cassidy noted that almost six weeks ago the town gave the county notice of its decision to terminate those two agreements which in essence means the County of Stettler will be forming tis own fire department.
Cassidy stated the county then asked the town if the town would agree to third party mediation to guide the two municipalities through what could be an arduous process, and the town agreed.
Cassidy stated she then contacted several fire officials in the provincial government, with a specialist assigned to the project. Cassidy noted the next step was to have each municipality name its mediation committee members and begin setting dates to begin the process.
However, Cassidy stated both she and the provincial government specialist have been unable to get a response from the Town of Stettler regarding the town’s committee members or any date when the mediation process could begin.
Cassidy stated the provincial government specialist, in speaking with the Town of Stettler, was told the town may want to contact the county directly, but Cassidy stated she never heard from anybody at the town. And that’s where the matter sits, she added.
Cassidy pointed out the first meeting would allow the council representatives to select a mediator who would then begin guiding the municipalities through the process of the town and county going their own ways when it comes to firefighting. However, since the town has never responded beyond agreeing to mediation, no process can begin.
“We are trying to negotiate this through,” said Cassidy. “You can’t negotiate by yourself.”
Coun. Justin Stevens suggested the County of Stettler make the first step by naming its mediation committee members and choosing dates for the process to begin, sending this information to the Town of Stettler in formal correspondence.
“At least then we’d get a response,” said Stevens. “I’m really frustrated with sitting on my hands.”
Coun. James Nibourg stated he felt it was important in any event that a mediator with some experience in fire departments be selected.
Coun. Ernie Gendre agreed he also was concerned the process was moving too slowly. Cassidy pointed out as of the county council meeting it was almost six weeks since the town stated it was terminating the fire agreements but no further developments had occurred.
Coun. Les Stulberg suggested sending the letter to not only the Town of Stettler administration, but to the mayor and all councillors as well.
Nibourg added that it seemed to him the Town of Stettler has made it clear they are very reluctant to get into negotiations and that the County of Stettler was, “...dancing with a very reluctant partner.”
Nibourg stated he also has had private conversations with town councillors and mixed messages were the impression he was getting.
Reeve Larry Clarke echoed concerns that it’s been six weeks with no further developments.
Coun. Dave Grover suggested the county simply keep the ball rolling with its fire department plans as you can drag a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
Councillors unanimously passed a resolution to name Clarke, Stevens and Nibourg to the fire department mediation committee with the Town of Stettler and to ask for a response from the town by May 18 so talks can begin the week of May 25.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review