Springhill, Oxford, Parrsboro to pull fire services from county
AMHERST - Cumberland County's other three towns are following Amherst's lead and withdrawing fire protection services to the Municipality of Cumberland.
Springhill, Oxford and Parrsboro all announced Thursday their intentions to pull fire protection services from the county beginning July 1, 2008.
Oxford will join Amherst in pulling its service on July 1 while Springhill is also investigating withdrawing service on the same date. Parrsboro will continue its service until the end of 2008.
"All four towns have now provided formal notice to the county that they will be withdrawing the provision of fire protection services to areas of the county currently being protected by their respective fire departments," representatives from the four towns said in a joint statement.
The mayors, chief administrative officers and fire chiefs from Amherst, Springhill, Oxford and Parrsboro met in Springhill on Thursday to discuss negotiations with the Municipality of Cumberland.
All four towns had been attempting to negotiate new fire service agreements with the county over the last three years. They decided to join forces to negotiate a common agreement with the county and on Nov. 1 submitted a cost-sharing proposal based on assessment, population, number of dwellings, kilometers of roads and number of calls.
The county sent back a counter-proposal on Nov. 29 basing its funding on what it provides its rural departments.
Funding would drop from the present $211,790 to $123,946 for the four towns.
County Warden Keith Hunter said his municipality is still willing to negotiate with the smaller towns, but feels the county and Amherst are simply too far apart to go back to the table.
"It would be a shame that we have to build our own fire departments and duplicate services with those three towns if they are that close to what we offer and they don't want to negotiate," the warden said.
Hunter said the county is not attempting to divide and conquer by negotiating individual deals as suggested by the four towns.
"It's not divide and conquer, all we want to come up with is are agreements with the three towns. If they don't want to come up with an agreement they're doing a disservice to their taxpayers," Hunter said. "With Amherst, it's just a business decision. We can't afford the amount they're requesting."
The four mayors are also reminding the county that mutual aid agreements between the rural departments and the towns are only for major fires and emergency and can't be used for routine firefighting calls.
As well, the towns will no longer be providing first responder service to areas of the Trans-Canada Highway and secondary roads not passing through their respective communities.