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City says no to fire amalgamation

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

City council has made its feelings clear on the prospect of a regional fire service – it’s not needed.

Following a letter from the region requesting Oshawa council take part in a regional fire services study, it passed a motion stating not only would the city not be taking part but, quite simply, they like things the way they are.

“I think we already have an effective system that serves each of the municipalities,” said Councillor Nancy Diamond.

The same was said by Oshawa fire chief Steve Meringer, who also serves as the regional coordinator between the region’s eight fire departments which, he says, work quite well together as is without placing them under the same umbrella.

“We are very closely aligned,” he says. “We know what each other is doing and we look at all areas from day to day on how we can work better.”

Regional Chair Roger Anderson, who was present at the June 8 meeting of Oshawa council making his annual address, is a key backer for regional fire, having made it one of the foundations of his election campaign this past fall.

During his presentation, he urged council to consider taking part in the study which would look at the feasibility of a fire services amalgamation. The study comes with a $75,000 price tag for the city.

He stressed to council the study would be able to find the pros and cons of a decision, and not to do a study could lead to uninformed decisions.

“If you don’t want to look at studying fire, if you don’t want to know the benefits or possible benefits, then say that,” Anderson said, speaking of council’s original motion to receive the participation request for information.

However, Diamond says council already knows the outcomes of such a study.

Previous reports have stated that of the eight municipalities, seven would benefit from amalgamation, but Oshawa could be forced to stretch their resources and pay more.

This would effectively end up resulting in paying more for less, Meringer says.

“I see absolutely no benefit why we would want to move Oshawa into that position,” Diamond said.

According to Meringer, the process of amalgamation would be an expensive one, with several collective agreements needing to be negotiated in the process.

“A lot of our language is close,” Meringer said of the eight union agreements. “But what is different is hugely different and very expensive.”