Township’s spending priorities questioned

A significant cost driver last few years has been the replacement of paid on-call firemen with full-time firemen.

Editor:

Recently I read “Mayor promises to open up” in The Star.

The present budget will serve as an excellent starting point.

The increasing tax base (growth of 3.5% per year) should result in lower tax burden per household but the discussion always seems to be how much to increase taxes versus why are we increasing taxes?

A significant cost driver last few years has been the replacement of paid on-call firemen with full-time firemen.

I understand some councillors have family employed as Langley firefighters.

Question 1) Is it true these councillors have voted and can vote on IAFF local 4550 contract and issues related to the fire department?

Full-time fighters were sold under the umbrella of public safety. Reviewing last year’s news I could not find single life saved by full-time fireman. Not even the pigeon that was stuck in the fence and freed by firemen. Records will show that fires are typically unstoppable. People can only survive few minutes without air so that if people are not able to get out immediately, firemen, full-time or paid on-call, are unlikely to save them.

Question 2)  So how is it we are safer?

Budget for Langley Firefighters is $15 million with expected annual increases of $700,000. Excluding campfires and wiener roasts (which are now outlawed in Langley) there were about five fires reported in 2014. Isn’t $15 million excessively expensive to save a few concrete foundations?

As to more firemen to keep us “safer” people can only live few minutes without air. You would need a manned fire truck every 1-2 miles to have a chance of saving lives. And people would have to be awake and able to make the 911 call immediately — in which case they best use the time to just get out immediately.

Cost to each rural home is about $500 per year. Plus $100 per year permit fee to burn fallen branches and yard trimmings. I cannot find any news or evidence indicating that family campfires and burning yard waste was resulting in out of control fires. Now we now have overly restrictive regulations (read the bylaw and see if you can make a legal fire in the cold rainy season) and new fees to fix a problem that didn’t exist.

Question 3) Paid on call firefighters are much wiser use of tax revenue. Why not make increased use of paid on call firefighters?

Though paid by taxpayers I understand if firefighters attend a fire there is a charge of $500 per hour.

Question 4) Does the fire department charge attending fires (and how much)?

As first responders firemen often attend motor vehicle accidents and provide assistance as required. While parking a large truck on the road is effective traffic control I question if other more cost effective alternatives might be available.

Question 5) Why are the taxpayers on the hook for motor vehicle accidents and what alternatives have council considered?

One way council will save and improve the lives of taxpayers is public recreation centers (Aldergrove being a current requirement). I am not in Aldergrove proper, but in the rural area, but do know that community pools teach people how to swim and other lifesaving skills that will definitely save lives — theirs or a friend’s. And also provide alternatives to “hanging out at 7/11” (or store of choice). Pools also provide seniors and near seniors opportunity to maintain fitness without banging up our worn out knees.

As to public recreation golfing is also a popular activity and Langley has several choices not funded by the taxpayer.

Question 6) How is it Langley Township can buy a golf course but cannot afford a recreation center for Aldergrove?

I also note we are considering additional policemen. I do not know their workload but I do know they provide an essential service.

A unintended consequence of being part of metro Vancouver is crime imported by transit. This has been evident at both Walnut Grove bus loop and of course Langley central. Council has endorsed transit and all the additional taxes and fees it entails. There have been several deaths and near deaths from random attacks near bus loops. It is terrifying to think that my children are expected to use services where their life is in danger for just being there.

Question 7) What is council doing to stop random attacks at bus loops?

Just before the recent election full-time firemen received a healthy six per cent raise in addition to regular annual raises.  Fireman cost about $40 per hour and they do receive full pay while sleeping on night shifts.

In summary I cannot see that full-time firemen keep us any safer than paid on-call firefighters. But do cost a lot more and rob other needed areas of funding.

What paid on-call firefighters do not provide is election signs, campaigning and political contributions.

And when you calculate our tax increase do not forget to include the $100 permit fee rural Langley taxpayers pay to burn fallen branches and tree trimmings.

Lorne Danielson, Langley