Wheatland County Council saw its biggest public turnout in months this week as councilors discussed the county's new Fire Services Bylaw.
Representatives from every community with a rural fire association were on hand to complain about not being consulted before the county drafted the bylaw that gives it more control over local decision making.
"These villages have never been consulted through this process until yesterday," argued Rockyford Mayor Darcy Burke, who is also a volunteer firefighter. "We're an important partner, we felt slighted by what has happened and we will stand behind our firefighters to the end of the earth."
"It is frustrating that we had to get to this point, that we had to have rate payers come in to support us," he continued. "I have been an elected official for a very long time and you need to be good listeners, and public pressure will make you a good listener."
The new bylaw, which had already received first reading in council before Tuesday's meeting, gives a county fire chief the final say on equipment and training for each fire hall within the Wheatland County limits. That includes Rockyford, Standard, Hussar, Rosebud and Dalum.
It was scheduled for second and third readings this week, which would have made it official, but county councilors backed off from another vote just yet, saying they want to sit down with local fire and community representatives to gather their opinions for possible amendments to the bylaw.
"Looking at a new bylaw, that is just fine, but if we had sat down and had a round table discussion very early on, we would not be where we are today," concluded Burke.
No date for face to face meetings between the county and local fire officials has yet been set.

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