A compelling case in favour of repairing Port McNicoll's fire hall convinced Tay council to throw its weight behind the project using provincial funding.
Fire Chief Brian Thomas said evidence from studies looking at the effects of harmful carcinogenic contaminants was behind the request to renovate the Port McNicoll fire hall.
The health and safety upgrades to improve and separate the different areas within the hall are designed to mitigate transmission of carcinogens from room-to-room and person-to-person. It is equally important to have measures in place to ensure firefighters do not bring contaminants home to their families, Thomas said.
"The bunker gear is porous and when you mount the fire truck, the diesel fumes will clog the pores on your bunker gear," he said to council. "Through testing, they've proven that if you're in a high temperature fire situation, you could have three minutes of time to get to a safe area. If you have contaminated bunker gear, it takes away 30% of your chance of safely getting away if you don't keep your gear clean."
This renovation would give us the bunker-gear specific room that would be ventilated so that it would draw the fumes and also keep the dampness away from the gear.
"In the case of the Port McNicoll hall," he said to council, "when you come in from the truck, you have to walk through the cleaning room, eating room to get to the washrooms. By doing these renovations, we'd be able to separate potentially contaminated areas and equipment away from more livable quarters. They would include showers so as soon the individuals have been in an interior fire, they can shower and change."
When that hall is fully manned, there could be 19 firefighters using the building at the same time, said Thomas.
"The main thing is to have areas to keep the contaminated equipment so it doesn't cross contaminate other areas," he said.
Other projects that were eligible for the $177,000 in provincial funds, which fall under the Canada Infrastructure Program COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream – Local Government Intake, included Bridgeview Park Trail connection and Tay Shore Trail resurfacing, Oakwood Park improvements and outdoor exercise equipment for parks and trails.
"My preference has always been trying to get Oakwood finished," said Coun. Mary Warnock, taking a stab at laying down her preference for staff direction. "I would like to see a bigger hard surface that could be multi-purpose. We've had a lot of interest in pickleball and outdoor space to do that. I'm thinking if we do the larger surface, we can incorporate many things.
"The need for the parking lot for me is something on a wishlist," she went on. "I'd like to see the park connected now. I guess incorporating the parks and trails aspect of that money is of interest, but I haven't ruled out the fire department either. I'm torn between those two."
Coun. Jeff Bumstead said he had come in thinking he would support the Oakwood community improvements, but was swayed by Thomas' presentation.
The same happened to Mayor Ted Walker.
"I came in thinking of the three projects, Bridgeview, Oakwood Park and First Avenue, which would give something to each of the three communities," he said. "After hearing the chief's report and some other comments with respect to the fire hall upgrades, I'm certainly in favour of that."
Coun. Sandy Talbot, however, was sure of her decision.
"My only choice would be the fire hall," she said. "We have 19 people there and we need to be cognizant of their health and safety. They're providing all of the residents of Tay with a service when the need arises. I can't understand why we would put exercise stuff before the wellbeing of those who support the township. We have female firefighters now so I think we owe it to them that they have proper showers and bunkers."
Eventually, all voted in favour of staff applying for the funding to be put toward health and safety upgrades to the fire hall.