On Monday evening, Airdrie City council unanimously passed a motion allowing functional programming to move forward with regard to a fourth fire station. The proposed fourth Firehall is slated to be built in the city’s northeast quadrant. Deliberations lasted for well over an hour, with questions mainly pertaining to the costs of the Firehall. Further deliberations and a possible follow-up report will also be presented to the Municipal Policing Advisory Board as well as the Community Services Advisory Board in the future.
Consultants from Behr Integrated Solutions, which Airdrie’s Fire Department had engaged with in the fall of 2021 presented to the council an executive summary of their findings and proposed models of a future fourth fire station. The preferred option, according to Behr, would include a fire station, training facility and emergency coordination center.
“This multi-use facility would support the city and its residents, both in the northeast quadrant of Airdrie and with additional support for the city as a whole,” the executive summary that was presented to the council, stated.
According to Behr Integrated Solutions consultant Jeff Carlisle, one of the challenges that firefighters have is maintaining the skills, abilities and knowledge that allow them to serve the community.
“The challenges you have right now is for the longest time Airdrie has been using the Calgary Fire Training Center. This has become increasingly difficult to get access to; they cancel or they’re overbooked,” he said. “You’re earning about $60,000 a year in costs [from the AFD training budget], to deploy your firefighters to the Calgary training academy to perform the types of training. Additionally, the Calgary training tower hasn’t kept up with leading practices in terms of structural interior fire attacks.”
The multi-use facility would include a training facility that would address those very challenges. Carlisle noted that in 2018, S2 Architecture was contracted to complete a functional needs assessment and develop design options based on the current site located at 960 Hamilton Boulevard NE.
“Of the three options that were proposed, the multi-use facility consisting of a fire station, training facility and an ECC is the most practical and logical solution to meet the current and future needs of AFD and the City of Airdrie,” stated the executive summary from Behr. Three proposals were explored and cost estimates were drawn up.
As of 2021, the cost of a standalone fire station would cost close to $13 million. The multi-use fire station and training area are estimated to cost anywhere from $15.1 million (according to S2) to upwards of $17.4 million in Behr’s estimate. In Behr’s view, the third option which would include a fire station, training facility and emergency coordination center would cost $25 million.
City councillors deliberated for over an hour, pushing back on the cost aspect of the proposal, especially when it came to the question of the training facility.
“I do see the need for the fourth Firehall. I do see the need to have our people adequately trained, but I’m looking at a $10 million difference,” Councilor Jones said. “For $10 million difference for paying $60,000 a year to train them now. You can get a lot of years for $10 million. The debt servicing alone will exceed $60,000 a year.”
Newly appointed Fire Chief Mike Pirie stressed that while the multi-use facility would have a core component of being a fire training center, it would also be a place to train other city staff.
“It’s supposed to be a facility for all city staff to use and that is our commitment; to design it that way. It should not be controlled by the fire department or run by the fire department. It should be accessible to all those agencies and including private partners,” Chief Pirie stated. “The reality is, the Calgary facility is inappropriate for our training. What we need is a facility that we can train on that’s modern, and allows our people to be trained in their own city while they’re on shift as much as possible. “
Councilors also questioned whether there would be any avenues to recover and mitigate costs, including whether renting out the multi-use facility may be an option, though Chief Pirie said that no other parties are willing to commit to this at this time.
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