Lacombe County refuses Clive request for fire engine

Lacombe County has poured cold water on a request by the Village of Clive to spot it $90,000 for a new fire engine.

Lacombe County has poured cold water on a request by the Village of Clive to spot it $90,000 for a new fire engine.

The county has no problem sharing half the cost of the $300,000 unit with the village, but councillors were leery of a proposed financing arrangement, which would have been a first.

Clive has asked for help because it only has $60,000 in a reserve fund to pay its $150,000 share of the fire engine’s cost. The village proposed paying the difference back over five years at $18,000 a year.

Coun. Rod McDermand said he was concerned that the county was being asked to act as a banker in the deal. The county has turned down similar requests before.

“I just think this is a philosophical thing,” McDermand said during council debate on Thursday. “Are we going to get into the banking business?”

If council approves what amounts to a no-interest loan to Clive, what will it do if another municipality comes forward with a similar request for a much larger project, such as a fieldhouse, he asked.

“If you open this door, (Clive) are not going to be the only ones.”

Coun. Brenda Knight also expressed reservations with the idea. “There are other options for municipalities to get money.”

County commissioner Terry Hager acknowledged the financing proposal has a down side, although it means the 21-year-old fire engine can be replaced sooner.

“It does set a precedent, and we’re concerned about that.”

Coun. Paula Law questioned whether the fire engine needed replacing right away or it could wait until Clive had lined up its share of the cost.

Keith Boras, the county’s manager of environmental and protective services, said the unit was having engine problems but it could still be used. Replacing it is preferred because it would be in line with the county’s policy of changing out equipment after 20 years.

In a 2007 arrangement, the village and county agreed to share use of the fire engine and split replacement costs. The fire engine was due for replacement last year, but the purchase was put off because the village didn’t have enough money.

Previously, municipalities were able to tap into a grant program that allowed communities to pool their grants to buy costly items. That program was eliminated in 2009.

Council voted in favour of replacing the fire engine and taking the money out of a $2.7-million reserve fund. The loan and repayment plan was unanimously rejected.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com