Vernon officials insist there won’t be a gap in service if volunteer firefighters walk off the job.
Twenty of 26 Okanagan Landing firefighters have stated they will quit as of Jan. 31 if the city does not agree to renew a service contract with the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association.
“We have highly skilled career staff and 25 volunteers at station one (downtown),” said Keith Green, Vernon fire chief.
“We also have confirmation of six Landing firefighters over to us.”
The city decided earlier this year not to renew a contract with the association. Instead, Landing volunteers have been invited to join the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association and to become part of a single command model based out of the Vernon hall.
The Vernon department is also recruiting new volunteer members.
“I am confident we will be able to serve our customers.” said Green.
“We hope more than six (Landing volunteers) will come over but that’s a personal choice. The Landing station is not shutting down.”
The OKLVFA is urging council to reconsider not renewing the contract.
“A great deal will be lost at a huge cost to the city,” said Todd Montgomery, OKLVFA president.
“Should the association’s concerns be heard and a mutual agreeable contract be drawn up, many of the valuable volunteers that serve today will continue to serve for many years to come.”
The association had requested to appear at city council’s Nov. 26 open meeting but Mayor Rob Sawatzky declined.
“The mayor also declined a request from a member of the Landing community to present a petition with 1,670 signatures,” said Montgomery, adding that the petition called for the contract to be renewed.
“A formal report has been submitted to the city that outlines the reasons why many members refuse to be part of the proposed integrated fire services.”
Sawatzky defends his decision to not allow the Landing volunteers and a resident to appear before council.
“They are legal and labour issues and we are constrained by law on what we can say. The reason the laws are brought in is to protect the individuals involved,” he said.
“We do not negotiate contracts via delegations or petitions.”
However, Coun. Patrick Nicol wants a discussion Dec. 10 about possibly allowing a resident to present the petition.
In terms of council having another discussion about ending the contract, Sawatzky says that also won’t happen.
“There is no new information and nothing for us to reconsider,” he said.