"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Friday 12 April 2013

Volunteer Fire Brigades

A comment received on the beer dispensing coke machine story  has made me realize it needs to be complete.
A Volunteer Fire Brigade was never just a fire protection service.
There may still be communities in Ontario or Canada where Volunteers  are the one and only  helping organisation.
They organised minor hockey and baseball, raised funds to keep taxes manageable. They helped widows and orphans, as well as provide  fire protection which would  not otherwise  have been available. And wasn't a required municipal service.

The volunteers even raised the funds to buy the equipment.
When I was elected, the stpend was $5 a call and paid at Christmas . It meant families enjoyed  a

small financiall advantage that made up for husbands and fathers hanging out  at the firehall so much.
The firehall was  a club house.
In Aurora a room behind the bays, accommodated  a bar, a billiard table and a dart board as well as other recreation devices.
I  knew there was a bar because I was invited myself on occasion. Until the coke machine, episode, I never knew the facility was a watering  hole for those in the know.
We had standing committees in those days Each Councillor had a chairmanship. Second from the bottom in the polls got the Fire Committee. Bylaws went to the Councillor at the bottom.
The Volunteers ran their own show. They picked their Chief and Council appointed him. It was the ony full-time position.
Having  served as a volunteer was the best  recomendation  possible for an aspiring Councillor. 

They were the local heroes.
The club house, behind the fire bays was not secret.

It  was not an expense. 
It meant , if a call came in, the men were already at the firehall.
When  the new  building was built  on Edward Street, we still had a Volunteer.
When 12 full-time positions were created,there were still Volunteers. 

The club house continued.
But change was coming. 

It would have been better handled  at  staff  level. Preferably by the Chief. But remember, he had been the popular choice of theVolunteers.
There was dis-satisfaction among other town workers.  Some volunteers had worked alongside.

When full-time  firefighter positions became available,the jobs went to them.
They went from jobs that paid $14. an hour to  wages  and working conditions very much

They worked office hours .
The reason for a full-time department was for the firehall to be mannned twenty-four /seven. 

That didn't happen. 
Administrative jobs were created.
The resulting morale problem among non firefighters was  inevitable.
I wasn't a member of Council at the time. George Timpson had taken the Mayoralty.
In the eighties ,the club house amenity had to end.
The beer dispensing coke machine could not stay.
Somebdy had to bite the bullet.  Run the gauntlet of firefighter outrage, so to speak.
And so it  came to pass.
Around the same time we read of a department  in New Brunswich threatening  to strike over the loss of the drinking amenity at te firehall
In another instance , firefighters demanded their Chief's resignation for  taking away their bar.

The moral of the story is,  firefighters are still doing many of the things  they alwys did.
And they are respected for it. 
But they just can't have it all.

Evelyn Buck


Baffled Observer said...

"The moral of the story is, firefighters are still doing many of the things they always did. And they are respected for it. But they just can't have it all."

And as it is for the firefighters, so it is for Mayors and Town Councillors. Wining and dining may be the accepted and expected method of sealing deals and luring business prospects, but alcohol consumption does not play any meaningful or necessary role in building positive municipal relationships (in fact, it's more of a detriment), and - especially in a diminished economy - taxpayers should not be expected to foot the bill for booze.

Anonymous said...

3:24 PM
Speak for yourself. Council represents the taxpayers.

Baffled Observer said...

I am speaking for myself. I am a taxpayer. As a taxpayer, I have a right to state which 'expenses' I am and am not willing to pay on behalf of my elected representatives.

Others are free to speak differently - that's democracy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, sugar, Council has decided which expenses you will pay for in this case. Willing or not.