Norfolk refuses to commit to St. Williams station

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

St. Williams Fire Station (File photo).

St. Williams Fire Station (File photo).


The high cost of fire trucks could be a factor as Norfolk continues to wrestle with fire-fighting options in St. Williams and Port Rowan.

Tuesday, Norfolk council rejected a staff recommendation that the county build a new fire hall in St. Williams.

Council has also kept open the option of amalgamating Station 10 in St. Williams with Station 9 in Port Rowan to create a “superstation” in this part of Norfolk.

Some councillors also like the idea of hiring a consultant to find firefighting efficiencies in the Port Rowan area.

Penny-pinchers on council are hung up on the fact that the Port Rowan station and the St. Williams station are only a few kilometres apart.

This compares to places like Bealton and Rockford which are a fair distance from their main fire hall in Waterford.

Simcoe Coun. Doug Brunton cites a similar situation in Haldimand County.

“The distance between stations in Jarvis and Selkirk is substantial but they don’t seem to have any problem,” Brunton said.

“We don’t seem to be interested in saving money when it comes to this service. Maybe it’s time we brought in someone independent to look at the whole process. Maybe an independent body would have a different opinion.”

Paring down the number of fire halls is attractive because each requires its own complement of pumpers and tankers. Each station also comes with its own array of expensive, sophisticated equipment.

Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg pointed out that the price of standard fire trucks is pushing the $1-million mark. The fewer stations Norfolk has, the less the county has to spend on vehicle replacement.

“They could have good coverage in Port Rowan with one station,” Sonnenberg said. “The taxpayer can’t afford the kind of coverage we have now. It’s too expensive, too fancy and it’s going to die on its own.”

At issue was a report from Norfolk Fire Chief Terry Dicks concerning the way forward in the St. Williams area. The St. Williams fire station on Townline Road is 67 years old and in need of replacement.

Last fall, Norfolk council asked Dicks to weigh the pro’s and con’s of taking this opportunity to combine the St. Williams station with the station in Port Rowan.

Dicks’ report warns that amalgamation could put upward pressure on insurance rates in the Port Rowan area.

He also pointed out that the Office of the Fire Marshal might order a review of firefighting services in Norfolk if it deems coverage in Ward One to be inadequate.

Dicks doesn’t doubt that there is protection overlap in the Port Rowan and St. Williams area.

However, he said the issue here is the location of the Port Rowan station. From a fire-protection standpoint, Dicks said the Port Rowan station should be on Highway 59 and not on Bay Street in the north end of town. While the St. Williams station is due for replacement, Norfolk expects the station in Port Rowan to last another 30 years.

“We’re thinking that the station in St. Williams is where it should be and that it’s Port Rowan that should be relocated,” Dicks said.

If Norfolk council opts for the status quo, the new station in St. Williams will cost $1.5 million to build. As it stands, council’s options remain wide open. More could be said about the situation at Norfolk’s 2018 levy-supported budget deliberations in January.