To say the possible future of an Emergency Services Building and its encompassing fire hall has been a long topic of debate within the town would be an understatement.
The optics of how the project would be funded, let alone if there is even the need for it, has come under the microscope.
The town was recently left approximately $2.4 million from the estate of a local benefactor after he passed away in October 2016.
Following in camera discussion at a July 2017 regular meeting, council voted unanimously to set aside $1.5 million dollars of the donation for a new fire hall building.
Many citizens have questioned the lack of accountability and transparency involved with a decision to earmark millions in public funds.
Moving the fire hall to a more centralized location has been highlighted as being able to reduce response times by approximately five minutes, increasing the safety of residents and businesses.
The Alberta Building Code in 2006 addressed high intensity residential fires (HIRF), identifying a need for fire departments to respond in under 10 minutes more than 90 per cent of the time.
However one sits in the debate about the proposed Emergency Services Building, citizens are being invited to voice their opinion about the future of the town’s fire hall infrastructure at an Emergency Services Building Open House on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the Taber Community Centre Auditorium.
Town council and certainly The Taber Times has voiced their frustrations in the past on the perceived apathy of citizens based on attendance at numerous open houses that have been held throughout the years to help shape the direction of the town.
The Times has shown up to cover them, only to discover a ghost town of indifference with the proverbial tumbleweeds blowing through the room, as often only the Times reporter, administration and some town councillors are present.
It is very easy to get the attitude of ‘why bother’ in seeing such poor turnouts at events that are amply advertised by the town and the Times itself through preview stories in wanting to give residents a voice.
But as residents have shown since the very day funds were officially earmarked for the proposed Emergency Services Building, this is very much an open house the town should be bothering with.
The fire hall issue dominated question period during the candidate’s forum for the municipal elections back in October.
The topic has drawn many Letters to the Editor with The Taber Times.
Neighbourhoods have mobilized petitions against some proposed locations for the fire hall project.
Some residents have attended council meetings knowing discussion on the project was on the agenda.
The open house has blown up on social media, being shared many times over to gather interest in attending the event.
But until Tuesday rolls around, no one will really know what the apathy level is of town residents.
Given the chatter in town over the last six months, it certainly looks like it will be the best-attended open house in recent memory.
But, as the saying goes, it’s time for local residents to put up or shut up by attending the open house.
If there is a big enough swell of support for either side of the argument, it certainly will give apt motivation for council to proceed in said direction.
For if council ignores their input, the ball is then in the court of the populace to ask ‘why bother’ and certainly gives strength to the optics that Taber is ruled by a democracy in name only.