By Cole Parkinson
The Municipal District of Taber is en route to re-upping their agreement with Red Cross.
In 2014, the M.D. signed an agreement with the Red Cross to provide reception centre assistance during major disaster events.
Both the Town of Vauxhall and the M.D. were maintaining two separate emergency plans at that time, but upon approval, M.D. Regional fire chief Brian Schafer joined them together to form one common emergency plan.
With that agreement, the Town of Vauxhall was invited to be added to the current Red Cross agreement in 2015 after approval from M.D. council, Town of Vauxhall council and Red Cross management.
From there, the Village of Barnwell joined to make it a tri-party Emergency Management Plan and plans to add Barnwell to the Red Cross agreement with Vauxhall and M.D. were to be completed upon renewal of the agreement.
“We’ve had an agreement that during a disaster they can come and help us in our emergency. We used them with the reception centre in that short period during last year’s flooding. This is just a renewal of the agreement, it actually expired in 2018 but it has taken so long to get through the Red Cross legal department because we added the Village of Barnwell,” explained Schafer at the M.D.’s regular meeting on Sept. 24.
Schafer also explained the cost for the Red Cross agreement and how it would be broken down between the three municipalities.
“Currently, the cost is still $2,500 and will be split per capita. The one point in there now says that each year it will increase by provincial inflation which will be calculated based on the year on year increase in provincial consumer pricing index as published by Stats Canada. That cost will be split with our other two partners as well and per capita. It saves our three municipalities having to find volunteers to do this in an emergency for the first couple of hours. During an actual event, we will still have to have people in place,” he said. “I know that we do but the town and village don’t have the same luxury as us.”
With talks progressing smoothly, Schafer expects the agreement to be in place in short order.
“The Town of Vauxhall, Cris (Burns, Vauxhall CAO) is already on board. He is just waiting for a signature,” he said.
One of the bigger challenges for Barnwell and Vauxhall have been gathering volunteers which are needed for getting the reception centre up and running before Red Cross arrives.
“In one of the lines, it talks about the volunteer pool. Does that come from the M.D. fire department or from our staff or does each of the three municipalities provide volunteers?” asked Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
“That’s from the community and that is where we are struggling. Here, like I said, is different for us because we already have people in place in our emergency plan, some of that is staff members. The village, I think has three or four employees, and the Town of Vauxhall is the same,” responded Schafer. “They would be the people to start to open the reception centre until Red Cross came.”
In terms of the volunteers needed, some training would be needed.
“There would be training for the reception centre and we have been trying since we have regionalized. The town and village of Barnwell have been trying to fill positions,” continued Schafer.
With three municipalities in the agreement already, there was one notably missing.
Due to the Town of Taber being absent, one councillor inquired to if that would be possible and if it would be beneficial.
“I wonder if we shouldn’t start conversations for emergency management to be a four-way partnership for emergency management including the Town of Taber,” said Coun. John Turcato.
While it was entirely feasible to add a fourth municipality, Schafer highlighted the challenges that would be present.
“It’s a lot. If you guys want to be responsible for what happens in the Town of Taber or vice-versa,” he said. “That is a pretty big chunk to chew off. Do we want outside people making decisions for the M.D. of Taber financially and vice-versa? That’s the biggest hurdle, are you willing to give up control to another municipality?”
While council may explore that possibility in the future, for today they are happy with how the agreements are structured.
“I think the current agreement now works well,” added Reeve Merrill Harris.
A motion was passed that council enter into a tri-party Emergency Response Services Agreement with the Canadian Red Cross Society, Town of Vauxhall and Village of Barnwell at a cost based on a population formula; maximum $2,500 and was carried unanimously by M.D. of Taber council.
Councillors Brian Brewin and Murray Reynolds were absent from the meeting.