County moves on standalone EMS base
April 23, 2014
By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County will construct a standalone EMS base on the former Walker’s Auto Repair property along Highway 35 in Minden.
For months, councillors have been delaying a decision on whether to partner with Minden Hills township on a joint EMS base/fire hall at the site or construct a standalone facility.
Council was waiting to see what sort of infrastructure funding might become available from senior levels of government.
In January, Minden Hills council passed a resolution that the township would split costs on a joint project, subject to the caveat that grants for construction were available.
It was thought a joint application was more likely to be approved.
While Infrastructure Canada is now accepting applications for projects through its Building Canada Plan, county treasurer Laura Janke told councillors at an April 23 meeting that the county would only be eligible for some roads projects under the program, not even major ones including bridges.
“There is not any hope in the near future to get any federal funding for a base,” Janke said.
The county leases space for its ambulance base in Minden, with that lease expiring at the end of the year.
Janke said if council got moving on the project right away, it would be possible to move into a new base Jan. 1.
An ongoing part of the conversation has been what to do with excess land that is not used for the construction of a base.
Minden Hills has expressed interest in buying a piece of the five-acre property for the construction of a fire hall in the future.
Conceptual drawings for the project have shown the property divided into three parcels and councillors favour the three-way subdivision.
The county would build its base on the southernmost section, sell the middle portion to Minden Hills for its fire hall and potentially sell the remaining piece of land at the northern end of the property to another buyer.
“I’m a little bit concerned about the way we’re dividing the property,” said Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey.
Fearrey wanted to refer the issue back to committee to ensure that there would be enough room on the property for the projects as well as a sellable section at the northern end, where there are some drainage areas.
Other councillors reasoned that where the lines would be drawn could be figured out as the project proceeded, and wanted to get moving.
“I think we really need to get going on making a decision here,” said Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt. “We need to take a step outside of our comfort zone and acquire some debt.”
Haliburton County is currently debt-free. However, it is municipalities that are in debt that are more likely to receive infrastructure funding through provincial and federal programs.
The estimated cost for a 5,000-square-foot EMS base, along with paving and other expenses, is $1.5 million.
Fearrey said he was comfortable with debt, but still wanted to have one more look at the property.
Algonquin Highlands Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen thought council had been spinning its wheels long enough, that the county should move ahead with the three-parcel subdivision, “the third to do with what we will.”
While it’s been suggested the county sell the third parcel to help recoup project costs, it has also been suggested the upper-tier retain the piece of property for a future purpose.
“I think we’re ready to go,” said Minden Hills Reeve Barb Reid. “We need to go out to tender so we can see the footprint.”
Reid reasoned with the county building its base at the southernmost end of southernmost section and Minden Hills being careful to utilize just the space it needs, there should be enough land left over for a developable third portion.
Minden Hills Deputy-reeve Cheryl Murdoch agreed.
“I don’t think that they have to be that far apart when these buildings are built,” Murdoch said.
Fearrey wanted to know if the property was zoned to allow the project.
“Public uses can happen in just about any zone,” said planner Jane Tousaw, adding that she would double-check on the zoning.
The property was purchased by the previous council for $385,000 in 2010. Including the land acquisition, the county has spent about $700,000 on the project so far, including the extension of Minden Hills’s water and sewer system to the site.
The county and Minden Hills have split costs on preliminary studies and drawings.