Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

The Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department is hiring an external consultant to conduct an Operations Review.

Fire Chief Will Sprogis and Training Officer Kitt Stringer presented a proposal to Trustees at the Aug. 3 meeting of the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District Board.

As Sprogis and Stringer pointed out, the GVFD does man internal audits, including one as outlined by the Fire Commissioner, and another by WorksafeBC.

Sprogis said in light of the fact that the District is working on a new ten year lnog range plan, it was felt this would be the most appropriate time for an external operational review. Stringer was directed to find proposals.

Stringer said they had considered having another fire department do the review, but it was determined that the scope they wanted was an external, fully independent audit.

The scope sought was in two phases. The first being service level, what kind of fire protection is provided to the community.

The second would be operational guidelines, compliance with the Playbook, as well as forward assset planning such as apparatus and facilities.

Reviews, when finished, would go first to the Fire Board, and if approved, to the public.

Three proposals were received from different consultants/companies.

Stringer said of the three proposals, two would cost over $15,000.

The third was received from Jay Brownlee, recently retired Deputy Fire Commissioner of BC.

His proposed cost was $5,000.

Stringer said it was a, “once in a lifetime opportunity with Jay Brownlee. He’s the fellow who is writing the current Playbook…we’ll have to follow.

“He knows more about what is happening than anyone else, because the book they wrote hasn’t been released yet.”

Stringer said there is room in the budget if monies are pulled from the training funds. $10,000 was received for training from the Red Cross; and money will be saved in First Responder training – as instead of five to ten new FRs being trained, the department will be training five to ten members to be EMRs, through the funding raised by  the Don Elkington Challenge.

Sprogis said, “based on budget from 2022…we would allocate from the training budget to support the $5K operational review and feel it would fall under the scope of training.”

Trustee Seán Lewis said he was in favour of the proposal.

He said there had been a subcommittee of Trustees set up for long range planning, and that subcommittee hadn’t heard about this idea of doing an operational review.

Sprogis said the operational review scope would mean that the Board could do the long range plan.

Chair Paul Giffin said, “Paul – this is two seperate things. this is a request to review the FD. The select committee was designed to come up with a 10 year long range plan. Two seperate things.”

Trustee Diana Moher said, “we’ve mentioned a number of times that an audit of operations side should be done at some point, so I applaud you’ve done this work ahead of time.”

“I’m happy to make a motion to proceed, and then meet up with Will and get our ducks in a row for long range planning.”

Trustee Fred Apstein said, “I really want say a hearty well done. You have embraced the idea of a review of operations. I think this is new and progressive thinking. Well done. I think it’s a little quick. I think there would be things Trustees would want to add to the review, or at least see the documentation. I wish the Trustees had known what you were planning and seen what you are asking for. This is part of our purview. I would like to have Trustee input on the scope and communication with the consultant.

“So I am supportive of the idea but I think we need to go a little bit slowly before we jump in so that we see what you are asking us to buy. It may be that we want to add things to the scope.”

Stringer said, “in terms of the scope, there is no contract signed, there is nothing that cannot be added or changed. Things can be added a little bit or shuffled around. In terms of the speed – it’s a one-time deal based on this fellow being on holiday, if you want to wait, the price will be reflective of that.”

Trustee John Moeller said, “over the last couple years, I’ve heard calls for a review many times. I think this is a good idea to do.”

He asked for clarification of the role the Trustees would take in the operations review.

“Our job is to approve the budget for it, but not the content of what is getting reviewed.”

Stringer was asked if there was a timeline on responding to Brownlee for his proposal.

He said the consultant was willing to work on the review while on vacation, as he had the time available, but that the cost would go up if the Board waits until Brownlee returns home.

Stringer said, “it’s great for us to high five anohter and say great jobe, but it’s another thing to have someone come in and tear into us.

He reiterated that Brownlee was part of the group that wrote the next Playbook which fire departments would be using going forward. Doing an operational review now, meant having advice from someone who knows what is coming.

He was asked if the $5,000 budget covered both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the scope.

Stringer said the scope was broken into two parts in case the Board said no to $5,000, but yes to $2,500.

Lewis suggested that the select committee members meet within the week with Sprogis and Stringer to ask further questions.

Giffin suggested due to the time constraints, the Board approve a motion to proceed, pending a meeting of the select committee, in order to meet the time needed to get the better price on the review.

Giffin confirmed on Aug. 19 that the Trustees had approved the expenditure for operational review.

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