CANMORE – The future location for a new fire hall in Canmore will be decided through the 2020 budget process, after council voted to accept a study examining possible locations as information.
Elected officials voted unanimously in June to accept the Fire Hall Study by Group2 consultants as information for planning purposes.
The study, presented by Fire Chief Walter Gahler as a draft in April, acknowledged the current fire hall at 10th Street and Railway Avenue is over capacity and vulnerable to traffic congestion.
The report recommended two new fire halls – an eight-bay hall along Palliser Trail and a four-bay hall in Three Sisters – as appropriate to meet the future emergency response needs of the community. In order to build the new fire halls, the report estimated the price tag from $14.8 million to $22 million, depending on what option the municipality decides to pursue.
“Administration will provide further analysis and direction on which option to pursue in the fall of 2019,” Gahler said. “In the fall, administration will come back to you with a recommendation.”
The current five-year capital plan sets out 2020 as the year that design work will be undertaken for the new fire hall with an estimated budget of $900,000, and the start of construction is set out for 2021 with an estimated budget of $12 million.
General manager of municipal infrastructure Michael Fark told council that as administration progresses through the design process, there will be better cost estimates for elected officials to consider.
“Once we get to the point of detailed design and tender, the numbers will be more real,” he said, adding council will likely be in a situation of deciding between what it would like to have, and what it can afford.
As for what will happen to the current fire hall, Fark said it is too early in the process for administration to make recommendations on whether it should be sold or repurposed.
“The best case scenario is that we are probably three to four years away from relocation of the fire hall,” he said. “It may be too soon at this point to decide whether or not to repurpose the existing building.”
The current eight-bay fire hall was built in 1986, when Canmore had a population of 4,000 people. The report identified multiple challenges to the site, including insufficient paring, not enough space for trucks to turn and back into the bays, insufficient clearance for turning onto 10th Street, and insufficient space for the equipment and needs of Canmore’s current Fire-Rescue department.
By today’s standards, an eight-bay fire hall would have 1,800 square metres, while the current hall is 850 square metres in size, according to the report.
One of the major concerns at the centre of the study and its recommendations is the way that response times are affected by the fire hall’s current or future location. The reason Palliser Trail is recommended as a possible site for a new hall is its location with respect to response times, access to the highway and available municipally owned land.
“There is no single site within Canmore that can provide the ideal travel time to all neighbourhoods,” stated the study.