By: Alex Cooke
After weeks of heated debate, Halifax council voted Tuesday afternoon to carry four motions that will result in the hiring of 32 new firefighters.
An original report from Fire Chief Doug Trussler suggested hiring 52 instead.
The first motion was to supplement career staffing at Lady Hammond Road in Halifax and King Street in Dartmouth with volunteer firefighters.
The second was to add career firefighters in Bedford, Eastern Passage, Cole Harbour and Lakeside to staff crews of four career firefighters. Both motions passed by a vote of 15-1.
The third, which included an amendment from deputy mayor Matt Whitman, was to staff aerial trucks with crews of two firefighters at the University Avenue and Highfield Park stations in Halifax and Dartmouth, respectively. The original motion was to staff them with four firefighters instead.
The amendment, which was debated over the course of the meeting, will save the city more than $2 million by 2021-2022. Trussler said that while four firefighters would be “optimal,” staffing two would be an improvement to the already understaffed stations.
Councillor Reg Rankin said he refused to support a potential tax increase, saying “we’ve given in to disinformation, misinformation, and a version of micromanaging. It’s poor leadership, poor decision making and poor budget making.”
The potential of an honorarium for volunteer firefighters was also discussed, but no decisions have been made.
The last motion carried was to apply the cost of the staffing changes to the general tax rate – which could have added an extra $28 onto homeowners’ tax bills. But Councillor Matt Whitman says that with the new amendment, there shouldn’t be a tax increase to pay for fire service. However, the long-term effect on taxes is still unclear.