New Fire Hall Provides Better Emergency Services to Residents
The City of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, is saving money and providing better emergency services to its residents after building a new fire hall with the help of a low-cost loan from the Municipal Infrastructure Lending Program (MILP), a key component of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.
Delivered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), MILP provided $2 billion over two years in direct low-cost loans to municipalities for infrastructure projects that support new or existing residential areas.
Yorkton received a MILP loan of $7.3 million to replace its 50-year-old fire hall with a modern facility that is both larger and more environmentally friendly. According to the City’s Director of Finance, the lower interest rate through MILP means the municipality will save nearly $1 million in interest costs over the 15-year loan.
“MILP helped us build a more sustainable project because it allowed us to look to the future and build what we needed,” said Lonnie Kaal, Director of Finance for the City of Yorkton.
Faced with additional service demands from a growing population as well as an aging facility with a leaky roof, municipal officials were already exploring how to finance the fire hall replacement project when MILP was launched in 2009. The timing was perfect: the City of Yorkton was able to finance the entire cost of its new fire hall with a direct low-cost loan from CMHC.
The new 26,000-square-foot fire hall, which opened in 2010, is more than three times larger than the building it replaced and features five drive-through garage bays, as well as living quarters for on-duty firefighters. It also includes a training tower, where firefighters practise ladder exercises, confined space training and search-and-rescue techniques, and a decontamination area to clean equipment. High-efficiency air conditioning and heating systems help reduce the building’s environmental footprint.
The new fire hall was constructed on the site of the old facility to ensure that it would remain centrally located and continue to provide excellent response times. In a state of emergency, the fire hall also doubles as the city’s emergency operations centre, with backup power for at least three or four days.
In fact, on Canada Day 2010, only a few months after it opened, the new building became the emergency operations centre in order to respond to massive flooding throughout the city following a huge rainstorm. For several weeks after this storm, teams regularly gathered at the fire hall to coordinate their responses, first dealing with the initial emergency that included rescuing people from their homes, and then handling the cleanup and recovery operations, as well as providing extra security. Even the province’s premier visited the fire hall to assess the situation first-hand and to announce disaster funding.
“We’re very fortunate to have a station like this to operate out of. It is serving residents well, both in day-to-day emergency operations as well as in times of disaster,” said Fire Chief Dean Clark.