Summerside city council has many important and worthwhile projects either on the go or ready to go.
This year the city will be looking at the next phase of the multi-million dollar Smart Meter Grid program and whether that will continue as it has in the past. There’s also the longstanding ditch infilling program requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. There’s the proposal for a school resource officer and numerous projects involving sidewalk and street reconstruction, sewer and electric utility improvements that will inevitably come before council in the 2014 budget.
As pressing as all of these projects are, none are more important than a new fire hall for Summerside Fire Services.
Firefighters are now operating out of a 60-year-old building that is virtually crumbling around them.
Over the past few years, the floor has had to be shored up. There’s a water problem in the basement and just last week, ice build-up caused the roof to separate resulting in the entire second floor being flooded, ruining ceilings and walls.
Although detailed figures haven’t been released by the city on the cost to repair the fire hall, Fire Chief Jim Peters estimated the damage at about $60,000.
But that seems to be the Band-Aid approach to the problem because with a building that old and used as extensively as it is, it’s only a matter of time before more money will have to be spent to keep the structure safe for firefighters.
Summerside finds itself in an enviable position with nearly 60 volunteer firefighters willing to not only give their time and talents, but also put themselves in dangerous situations to serve the community. They are among the first responders to emergency situations and their role in the community cannot be measured in dollars and cents. They deserve nothing but the best.
To its credit, city council has initiated a plan to replace the fire hall, and last Monday night, received a preliminary report on a new facility. The details of that report were not made public but once the final draft is in hand, the information will be released.
City council needs to put the construction of a new fire hall on the fast track.
It has to be the number one priority in any financial decision council will make.