Following the last week's City council meeting which Mayor Brown called a 'robust' discussion on the potential of a fourth fire hall in the city's Northeastern quadrant, he believes there is still much vetting and scrutiny to be had.

"This fire hall been on the books, since we approved the fire master plan, probably eight or nine years ago," he said. "It's come before Council several times over the last number of years, but there hasn't been, from the fire service, justification to open the fire hall yet."

However, Mayor Brown underlined that one way or another a fourth fire hall will eventually be built in the city. He also believes that a more regional approach should be looked at, especially when it comes to the issue of the multi-use training facility that was proposed to the city council last week. 

"If you can imagine Rocky View County fire services, Cochrane fire services, [and] Chestemere's fire services, they all have to be trained to the same degree that our firefighters [do]. So to me, it should be more of a regional approach to solving that issue."

During the June 20 council meeting, consultants from Behr Integrated Solutions underlined that a multi-use training facility would eliminate the challenges that Airdrie's Fire Department deals with when it comes to travelling for training in Calgary. However, the training facility would also double as a multi-use facility for other city staff. 

"The challenges you have right now is for the longest time Airdrie has been using the Calgary Fire Training Center. This has become increasingly difficult to get access to; they cancel or they're overbooked," said Behr Integrated Solutions consultant Jeff Carlisle. "You're earning about $60,000 a year in costs [from the AFD training budget], to deploy your firefighters to the Calgary training academy to perform the types of training. Additionally, the Calgary training tower hasn't kept up with leading practices in terms of structural interior fire attacks."

The comments and discussion at Airdrie's city council with regards to the issues that Airdrie's fire service faces with their counterparts in Calgary were followed by a report early this week from Calgary that the Calgary Fire Department's own budget would have to nearly double to $214.5 million in order to meet the rigorous standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

However, the Mayor used Okotoks as an example of a regional approach that might be more cost-effective.

"They partnered with Elk County; now, I don't know the comparative with what Airdrie is proposing, [but] it's probably significantly less money for Okotoks to partner with another jurisdiction to effectively create similar opportunities."

The Mayor was also asked about the ongoing healthcare issues that Airdronians continue to be faced with. 

"It's been on the front page of our advocacy plan since I got elected in 2010," he said. "We've needed expanded health care here for as long as I have been here."

Frustration was expressed at the fact that provincial counterparts are not willing to listen to the advocacy and please of municipal leaders and politicians in Airdrie. He expressly underlined that a potential UCP candidate for the premier (Todd Loewen) that visited Airdrie with MLA Angela Pitt has only begun speaking out about the topic now.

"It's nice when people show up here, and they're talking about what we need. Where were you when you were in office? Why weren't you here telling us those same comments?" the Mayor asked. "Our urgent care... there are not enough beds. The technology for laboratory equipment is outdated and there's no place to store things. The triage is very challenging when you're standing outside the door waiting to get in the building."

Mayor Brown said that since Health Minister Jason Copping's visit earlier in the year when there was a verbal agreement between the Mayor and Minister confirming an expansion of Airdrie's Urgent Care Centre, nothing else has been followed up on.

"I've written, we have letters that we've sent in March, confirming an expansion that was verbally stated to me back when the minister visited. I have not got an email back or a letter back as a result of that correspondence or others."

The Mayor pointed out that other towns and cities in Alberta have gotten funding to expand their own health facilities, including Red Deer and Grande Prairie with significant price tags. 

"When we're talking to expand urgent care; it's a four and a half million [dollars]. I don't understand the hesitancy. Why aren't you just doing it? Why is Airdrie being overlooked? And that's really the real crux of this."

He added that the issue of healthcare resources in the city is also becoming an economic issue for the city.

"It's actually one of the top concerns for businesses moving here, which impacts our economic development and being as economic development is a driver for the province, and that it's a hindrance to growing business [in Airdrie] this should be a huge issue for the province of Alberta," he said. "And more importantly, the health and safety and well-being of our citizens is the top priority."

The Mayor also touched briefly on the stakeholder engagement sessions that the province held with municipal leaders with regard to the potential of phasing in a provincial police force into Alberta.

"It wasn't a very good engagement session. It was very biased against the RCMP, from the outset of the conversation. We were told for over an hour that the participants that were there on behalf of the government would not answer political questions. At the end of the day, I don't know how you distinguish between political questions versus just a question about why the government is attempting to do this."

Mayor Brown did express his concerns to the new Solicitor General and the presentations have been revamped with plans to go back to the communities in the near future. The mayor did say that while the introduction of a provincial police force is a talking point for many UCP hopefuls for premier, he has doubts as to how the actual transition so close to an election would occur. 

"Will it be governed by municipalities? Will it be governed by police boards? There are tons of questions. We support our RCMP here in Airdrie and that's the feeling in many municipalities across the province."

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