A memorandum of understanding between Southwest Fire Academy (SFA) and Tay is set to be brought to regular council today paving the way for a regional training centre in Waubaushene.
If approved, an emergency services training and registration agreement would allow Tay Township access to various fire training equipment and facilities at a reduced cost, while providing live fire facilities and in-classroom training for the new centre.
Currently, SFA owns the lands at 36 Hazel Street in Waubaushene and is conducting live fire training at the fire hall on Old Fort Road. A prior agreement regarding the Old Fort facility with Tay is set to expire at the end of July, which is the basis for an impending nine-month extension.
Shawn Aymer, fire chief and community emergency management coordinator, sees the partnership between SFA and Tay Fire and Emergency Services (TFES) as a real win.
“A local RTC (regional training centre) would be of tremendous benefit to TFES,” said Aymer, “by reducing mileage reimbursement, eliminating the requirement for expensive overnight accommodations, shorter drive times for firefighters to attend training and allowing township staff input into courses offered.”
Gord Roesch, president of Southwest Fire Academy, shares Aymer’s outlook on the benefits to a partnership.
"RTCs are also subsidised currently by the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management so the costs to provide training to local fire departments should be lower,” he replied in an email.
The offer comes at a time when fire training facilities are at a low due to the unexpected closure of the Ontario Fire College (OFC) in Gravenhurst earlier this year. That decision was made due to low registration and high cancellations at the college. A plan was announced by the provincial government to divert training into smaller regional training centres across the province.
“Many small fire departments in Ontario relied on the OFC to provide their training,” wrote Roesch. “The closure left many scrambling and without internal resources to fill the gap created. A local RTC in Tay will continue to allow firefighters in North Simcoe and Southern Georgian Bay access to training that the OFC previously provided.”
Council has already expressed interest in the proposal back in November, prior to the college’s closure.
SFA is also looking at a desired location on a Newton Street property under private ownership to set up live fire training.
Prior to the township entering into a memorandum of understanding, an agreement between SFA and the Newton Street property owner acknowledging use, insurance and liability responsibilities would need to be made. A planning act application to use the property for a non-agricultural use is also required.
In addition, to fully utilize the Hazel Street property, SFA is requesting that the township relocate an adjacent fire hydrant to the corner of Ash Street at the township’s expense of $5,000 to $10,000.
“The best outcome would be for council to endorse the committee recommendations and allow Tay to move forward to create these win-win partnerships,” Roesch replied.
Tay council meets for regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Further information including council’s agenda can be found on the Tay township website.