The relationship between the City and RM of Meadow Lake recently had the potential to become somewhat heated.
Thankfully, however, the RM agreed to sign a new fire services agreement with the city, which – in addition to still being billed on a per fire basis – requires the RM to pay an annual fire retainer fee of $60,000. This is a significant increase from the $44,000 it paid last year, but apparently worth it according to city officials who looked into the actual cost of running day-to-day fire department operations.
What’s troubling, though, is how the RM took so long to sign the necessary paperwork. Negotiations began in September and, although originally set to expire at the end of 2016, the previous contract was extended by one month to allow the RM more time to consider the new provisions and to ultimately decide to come onboard. And, still, the new Jan. 31 deadline was looming before the agreement was finally signed, sealed and delivered to the powers that be at city hall.
The transition of power that occurred in the RM as a result of October’s municipal election likely played a factor in the holdup, but RM reeve Tim McKay openly admitted his council isn’t “necessarily 100 per cent happy” with how the agreement was put together, which gives the impression the RM may have gone along with the city’s terms because it had no other choice.
Without an agreement in place, the city can’t dispatch its firefighters to the RM without facing legal liabilities, and that’s a scary thought. In fact, for the nearby Village of Loon Lake and its neighbour, Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, it was a complete and total disaster.
The reserve, which had opted out of its fire retainer agreement with Loon Lake in 2013, owed more than $3,000 at the time of a fatal house fire in early 2015 that resulted in the deaths of two toddlers. This alone proves how tragic things can turn out when a call for help goes unanswered. It’s even worse when the reason it goes unanswered boils down to politics or money.
Speaking of money, whether or not that’s the actual reason the RM appears to have been hesitant to sign the agreement remains unknown. The majority of discussions regarding this matter took place in-camera, meaning they were behind closed doors and without the public being privy to every detail brought to the table.
In the end, however, the agreement was signed and the RM will continue to receive fire services from the local fire department. They may end up paying a little more than it did in the past, but the price of not having an agreement in place could have been much more costly.