Sudbury council has an important decision to make at the end of this month and it all centres around a fire hall in the community of Val Therese.
They're expected to get a report on staffing recommendations from the city's chief after an arbitrator ruled last year they must have four full-time firefighters stationed there. The station has traditionally operated with two, supported by volunteer firefighters.
Council will be looking at whether to keep the firefighters or make changes. The arbitrator's ruling has riled some members of council.
"The arbitration is so ridiculous, it actually sets the service level for Val Therese, who have used their hose six times in three years, it sets them above the bar of Richmond, Vancouver, Mississauga and Ottawa," said Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier.
The issue of firefighters and staffing is a complex one and has been an issue for several years now. Councillors say there are some serious implications with some of the solutions being brought forward.
Big changes possible
Among some of the things that are being circulated are reducing staff at the downtown fire hall, moving firefighters around and closing the Minnow Lake hall.
Montpellier would like to see the Valley station staffed only by volunteers.
"If they were to revert Val Therese to volunteer like the other 19 stations that we have at this point, they would be saving millions," said Montpellier.
Others though aren't so sure and tell CTV News this is all speculative until Fire Chief Joseph Nicholls delivers his report to council.
Valley East area councillor Robert Kirwan said they were fine before with having two full-time firefighters. He said they'll have to look at several factors, including the current level of service.
As it stands now, with every fire call there are still firefighters dispatched from the city core.
"I'm not hearing the kind of negative reaction to our taxes might have to go up an additional three per cent to cover the fire," said Kirwan.
As it stands now, taxpayers pay for fire services through a process that's referred to as area rating. So Valley East, Capreol, and Walden for example, have volunteer firefighters and have lower property taxes compared to those living in the city core.
Cost is about $1.3M
If they were to go ahead with the four firefighters, Val Therese would have to make up the additional $1.3 million cost.
Kirwan said this might spell the end of area rating and it's something they'd have to revisit without diminishing the value of the city's volunteer firefighters.
Matt Walchuk is the provincial representative for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), which represents the city's volunteer firefighters.
They issued a news release at the end of January urging residents to contact Ward 5 Coun. Kirwan and Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, who represent the area.
Walchuk said his members are the safe and effective choice.
"Frankly with the proper, meaningful support from the fire services management team, from a volunteer recruitment standpoint, Valley East residents could continue to receive their effective, cost-effective and very efficient fire service," he said.
CTV News reached out to the career firefighters' union and was told it's reserving any comment until it sees the chief's report at the end of the month.
Chief Nicholls is expected to deliver that to council on Feb. 23.