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2014 BUDGET: City Hall renos OK, firefighters not

Penticton fire inspector and union rep Mike Richards (front)attended city budget meetings. He is bothered by council's decision to go ahead with $250,000 in city hall upgrades rather than finding cash to fill two spots left vacant by retiring firefighters.
January 13, 2014 - 3:51 PM

UPGRADES TO INCREASE PUBLIC ACCESSIBILITY

PENTICTON - Council said yesterday it will spend $250,000 for city hall renovations and this comes nearly a month after it raised taxes and cut two firefighter positions to solve a million-dollar deficit problem. Greyback Construction received a $153,562 contract for the bulk of the project with the remaining money being spent on mill and preparation work.

And that $153,562 is about how much it would cost to hire two firefighters to fill the shoes left behind by retiring fire captains, according to fire inspector and union rep Mike Richards.

"You could argue the city saved a ton of money when they retired last summer," Richards said. "And that money should have been saved and targeted to replace those two firefighters but it wasn't."

He said if the city hired two junior firefighters they would get lower salaries than the two senior members who left. The two captains were paid $89,000 each per year. A junior firefighter's starting salary would be roughly $55,000.

Instead council wants city hall's main floor to be a one-stop-shop for customers. Upgrades are to increase accessibility and reduce customer congestion during peak time periods. Departments on the second floor that deal directly with the public will also come down to the first floor. Council allocated $200,000 in its 2013 budget for this work spokesperson Simone Blais said. The city also received a $50,000 accessibility grant.

Richards said the department won't forget this when voters head to the polls. "We are preparing ourselves to be active in the upcoming (municipal) election campaign."

He said with a reduced roster there is going to be difficulty in responding to particular fires. He said Penticton residents are shelling out more for less protection.

"It's one thing when you're not paying more taxes but in this case you are. You're paying for a lower level of service."

"And nearly half the time, especially the south end of town, residents are getting a lower level of service."

Council did allocate $136,000 in the 2014 budget for future fire truck purchases but the fire inspector would rather see more firefighters on the roster.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065 or tweet @InfoNewsPentict.

UPDATED - This story was updated at 8:59 a.m., Jan. 14, 2013 to include more financial information about city hall's renovation projects.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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