Billings is in need of a fire hall, but lacks the funds to make it happen

Billings township council will be making a major decision this year, as to whether to renovate the current building or have a new fire hall constructed.

KAGAWONG – Regardless which of three options Billings Township decides on for a renovation or new build of its fire hall, it will cost anywhere from between over half a million dollars to $1.7 million. And, while council agrees that work on the fire hall needs to take place as soon as possible, no funding is available at the current time for the township to tap into.

“The reality is, we’ve known for several years the current fire hall is in disrepair,” stated Billings mayor Ian Anderson at a council meeting December 20. “This work is long overdue and we need to get on with this project.” 

Billings office staff had recommended that council discuss the options presented by Tulloch Engineering in the fire hall scoping report they had completed and to schedule a meeting of council dedicated to the one issue of the fire hall early in 2022.

Last fall, council contracted Tulloch Engineering to prepare a “fire hall renovation versus new build report,” to examine the cost-benefit and implications of the two approaches. Tiana Mills, township deputy clerk and Martin Connell, Billings fire chief met with Tulloch representatives on October 27. 

The estimated costs determined by Tulloch Engineering for renovating the existing fire hall would be $556,250.00 plus HST. Option two, demolishing the existing fire hall and constructing a new building of the same size and configuration, has an estimated cost of $845,000.00 plus HST, design and permitting costs. Option three would see construction of a new firehall on an alternate site, suitable for the size of the proposed fire hall development and would cost $1,753,875.00 plus HST. As well, for the “new build option,” an alternative building site has not been identified, and additional costs for property development and site servicing will also be required.

“If you examine the report, the most obvious solution would be option number one to renovate the existing firehall building,” said Councillor Bryan Barker. “However, this definitely requires more input and discussion.” He pointed out a suggestion had been made that if a new building was opted for, the the current dog park may be a suitable location.  

“And there are still unknown costs that could be substantial,” said Councillor Barker. “I also understand there is no (government) funding currently available for this type of project. And our (township) staff has advised that we don’t have the ability to take out a loan to rebuild.”

“The fire hall requires immediate attention,” stated Councillor Barker. He noted the township is facing  this and a couple of other costly projects soon. “Option one seems to be the most prudent but I’m glad staff is recommending council hold a dedicated meeting to get further input and have a full discussion on this issue.” 

“I echo what Bryan has said. We all know something needs to be done with the current fire hall,” said Councillor Sharon Jackson. “And obviously we are going to discuss the merits of each of the options proposed. Option three, a new building, would cost close to $2 million dollars which would be a huge undertaking. I look forward to further discussion and input on this issue.” 

“I also look forward to another discussion on the options,” said Councillor Michael Hunt. “It would be nice to have a large new fire hall building but we don’t have money at the present time for this, or actually to afford any of the options. I agree we need a meeting just looking at this issue and to be able to look at other options, grants and loans that might be available to us.” 

Mayor Anderson noted that regardless of which option council chooses, this would need to go to tender, and that construction could not take place until the milder weather comes. My intention, as I’m sure it is with all councillors, is to move forward as quickly as we can. I think it would be reasonable to get this project started some time in 2022.”  

“It’s a major decision that council will need to make. And it is important enough that council needs to have a dedicated council meeting early in 2022 to discuss the options,” said Mayor Anderson.