Town narrows search for new hall

Fire Chief Steve Goode said a fire hall committee has ruled out the municipal office site as a possible location for Erin’s new fire hall.

And while the final decision will be made by council, Goode said the office location on Trafalgar Road, south of Hillsburgh, would mean longer response times and increased risk for local school children.

He explained fire trucks would have to go through a set of traffic lights and travel through a school zone to get into Hillsburgh, and volunteer firefighters would be forced to travel farther in their own vehicles just to get to the hall.

“Basically, the response times will double,” Goode said.

The area already faces major delays in ambulance response times, and given that every second counts when responding to medical and fire calls, he said it does not make sense to locate the new hall at the town’s office site.

The town is looking to replace Station 50, on Station Street, in Hillsburgh, which was built in 1970 but no longer meets Building Code requirements for parking. And the property is not large enough to house a new building and allow for parking.

Firefighter and hall committee chairman Steve Ballan­tyne said the committee has narrowed its choices down to two locations.

The first, on the west side of Trafalgar Road, just north of Hillsburgh, is a level site that would require little excavation and is a good spot for the de­partment’s communication tow­ers, Ballantyne explained.

He added that site will have ample room for any future expansion and the owner of the property is willing to sell. The main drawback to the location is it could be a “winter hazard,” considering the driveway will be located on Trafalgar Road, where blowing snow often forces the closure of the road.

The second location outlined by Ballantyne is across the road from the existing fire hall, on Station Street. That property is available immediately and at least one owner has reacted favourably to the possibility of a land swap agreement, he said.

And while there is the potential for a nice park along a small lake on that property, Ballantyne said the sloping land on the site means more excavation.

Councillor Barb Tocher wondered if having a park and more cars on the second site could interfere with the department’s emergency calls.

Ballantyne said perhaps, but the biggest concern with that site is flooding. The department needs to first determine flood lines and soil composition to see if the land could accommodate the new hall, he told council.

Councillor Ken Chapman said he would like to get the answers from the  Credit Valley Conservation authority before engineers are involved, and he is also interested in seeing some cost estimates before pick­ing a site.

Councillor Josie Winter­singer asked if it would make more sense and save money to have one fire hall serving all of Erin.

Goode replied that such a move means the town would likely have to move to a full-time fire department, based on the volume of calls for the entire municipality (over 400 in 2007). Plus, having one large hall would likely increase response times in both Hills­burgh and Erin village, he added.

The fire chief said he prefers that both villages have their own hall and would like to get some information from the CVC, then proceed with an engineer’s report on both sites proposed for the new hall.

Tocher said council needs to get the 2009 budget in order before approving such a report. She also mentioned two other possible locations in Hills­burgh, but Goode said access to those locations is not fav­ourable.

“I think we have two favourable sites,” Goode told the Advertiser.