Taxpayers group questions cost of proposed Leslieville fire hall

Clearwater County Taxpayers Association says possible $5.1-million price tag too high

A Clearwater County taxpayers group is questioning the price of a proposed public services building in Leslieville.

The county wants to build a three- or five-bay building that would include a fire hall and other municipal spaces. An on-site firefighter training facility has also been proposed.

The Clearwater County Taxpayers Association’s Marianne Cole said they support a new fire hall in Leslieville, east of Rocky Mountain House, but question the scope and cost of the project.

It could cost up to $5.6 million when all of the costs are tallied, she said.

“Our organization is not opposed to a second fire hall at Leslieville,” said Cole. “What people are upset with is the over expenditures.”

A large fire hall was opened in Condor in late 2019, and a smaller satellite station costing around $2 million had earlier been proposed for Leslieville.

“Those two fire halls are only 11 kilometres apart. So there is no need,” said Cole, of the prospect of two large facilities.

The taxpayers association also questions why a training facility is proposed as part of the Leslieville project, when one was already built at Condor.

As well, county firefighters use Red Deer’s training facility at a cost of $1,400 to $1,800 a day. That makes it a far cheaper option than building a facility at Leslieville, she said.

County administration has argued it makes sense to overbuild now when prices are good, to have the space for future expansion.

Cole points out Clearwater County has lost population since 2014 and there is little need to overbuild now.

Cole also questioned the wisdom of spending so much money at a time when the economy is bad. Clearwater County is owed $6 million in oil and gas back taxes because of the energy industry’s struggles.

Reeve Tim Hoven said it makes more sense to build for the future than to settle for a building that could prove inadequate in just a few years.

A three-bay fire hall building would cost an estimated $3.2 million to $3.3 million, and a five-bay version about $300,000 more.

When land costs, site design and construction and equipment costs are included, the price could be in the $4.8 million to $5.1 million range.

The fire hall would mostly be paid for with $3.1 million in provincial grants and $2 million from a fire facilities reserve fund. Only $500,000 will come from future taxes.

Council voted to put out a request for proposals for three- and five-bay options to get a better handle on the price.

Not all councillors were convinced that the $5.6-million option was the best way to go.

Coun. John Vandermeer proposed an unsuccessful motion that the county investigate replacing a five-bay fire hall with a two-bay building that would cost $2.2 million.

“I believe you can have all the necessities of a fire hall at this price.”

Hoven sees it differently.

“When you look at it over 10 years, does it make sense to spend the money now and have a building for future needs, or just spend the money and have a building built for today?”

If the county went with the $2.2-million option, it would end up with a building almost the same as what it has now, he said.

The smaller satellite station was going to be created by renovating an existing municipal building, but engineers said the building was not suitable for retro-fitting.

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