During a meeting late last month of the Conception Bay North joint council, the idea of shared services and formal aid agreements was floated around.
Harbour Grace Coun. Gord Stone suggested neighbouring communities work together on different services, including fire protection. In fact, he stated that neighbouring fire departments would be better off if towns signed into mutual aid agreements as an incentive to attract govnerment funds for new equipment. The mayors of two towns that neighbour Harbour Grace - Carbonear's George Butt Jr. and Upper Island Cove's George Adams - have very different views on regionalizing fire departments.
"Eventually it's coming, one regional fire department," said Butt. "They're going to have to share it - Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Victoria (and the rest of Conception Bay North). They all have a pumper truck; they all have an equipment van. The government is not going to have money to give to every department."
But Adams disagrees, saying a regional station would not be beneficial to his municipality, citing a feasibility study completed several years ago on shared services.
"As I recall, from the perspective of Upper Island Cove, one of the drawbacks would be a considerably increased response time," Adams said. "We have a very active local fire department, and being in close proximity to the residents, our response time is minimal."
Carbonear is a relatively central location, located on the main highway, while Upper Island Cove is approximately 10 minutes from Veterans Memorial Highway.
Both towns are on board for other shared services, with Adams noting that Upper Island Cove and Spaniard's Bay already share a water supply.
Butt was not aware if there was anything formally in place between Carbonear and Harbour Grace, or any other municipality, but did confirm the departments are always working together when needed.
"The crowd around here has a pretty good working relationship in regards to helping each other out," Butt said. "Victoria and Salmon Cove have a good working relationship like we do with Harbour Grace, as I'm sure other towns do with their neighbours."
One specific example that Butt gave was covering each other's backs for the firefighter's ball. Carbonear handles calls from Harbour Grace during its annual event, and vice versa.
Adams claims his town already has a mutual aid agreement in place with neighbouring Spaniard's Bay.
"Essentially, it's an agreement that if something should happen, if our members happen to be in training (or unavailable), we have the level of cooperation from each other," he said. "We are never left unprotected."
Stone spoke of circumstance where his town might not have enough members to fully respond to a call, with the two weeks on, one week off work schedule cited as a contributing factor. Carbonear and Upper Island Cove don't have that problem, according to the mayors.
Most of the volunteers for Carbonear work locally, and many new, younger members have joined in recent years. They have a full group of 40 firefighters.
"Not every town is like that," Butt said, adding the department is always available if needed. "We are fortunate."
In Upper Island Cove, they also don't have an issue with keeping the department covered.
"We have 24 members with, I believe four on a waitlist," Adams said, adding the department also serves Bishop's Cove and Bryant's Cove.
In Upper Island Cove, many of their fire department members have some medical training as well. It is the first number many locals call in an emergency, because they are closest to assist.
It is clear, however, most municipalities agree that having a neighbouring department to help out is beneficial, both when called upon for extra assistance or to cover when some members are not available.