Chief B. Branscome, from the Ontario Fire Marshals Office, presented a Certificate of Compliance to Howe Island Chief Mike Quinn and WI Chief James White, at the recent meeting of Frontenac Islands Council meeting on Howe Island.
The Fire Protection Act passed in 1997 included mandatory public education requirements for municipalities with respect to fire safety, and the components of fire prevention; (use of domestic fire extinguishers, CPR and smoke alarm use) to be provided through a fire department or a community fire safety officer or team. Both Howe and Wolfe Island have well trained and active volunteer Fire Departments. In his presentation, Brascome noted that people like himself were appointed to travel the province, visit the municipalities and determine if they were compliant with the regulations. ”You will notice that your certificate is dated Dec. 22, 2008,” he said. “While our respective workloads have delayed presenting this certificate, it is major step which states Frontenac Islands, that is Howe and Wolfe Islands are in compliance. Our numbers show we are winning with regard to fire prevention throughout the province. We have to rely on the fire services, the fire departments, the fire chiefs to get the message out. I would like to thank the township, Chief Quinn and Chief White, and present this certificate of compliance in recognition of what their departments have accomplished.” In response the mayor said that it is acknowledged on the islands “how fortunate we are to have the volunteers and the two Fire Chiefs we have. Our volunteer fire services are held in high regard by islanders and we share their pride.”
Members of the Wolfe Island Business and Tourism Association (WIBTA), Liz Crothers and Judy Smitten presented their case, including costs as requested in March, for 2 seasonal public washrooms, fencing, cement pad, fencing, maintenance and motion lights, located along the ferry line-up near the community dock, as well as a reminder about sidewalk improvement. “There is a real need for these to further promote tourism,” Crothers said. In receipt of council’s approval they hope to have the facility open in May. WIBTA also presented a request for an increase in their annual grant to initiate new events and respond to ‘First Impression’ recommendations but also because the annual “road race” no longer generates the income they depend on (specifically cash sponsorships). Crothers announced that WIBTA is organizing a two category (annual) Garden Competition for the beautification of Marysville with substantial prizes $500 & $250 for winners in both categories and a $100 Peoples Choice prize for group sponsored containers
Under new business Mayor Vanden Hoek discussed both the Wolfe Island Medical Clinic and the island’s ambulance service. In attendance David Colburn, VP of the clinic board, and Keith Walton as well as David Gemmill, Deputy Chief, Frontenac County Paramedic Services, and Fire Chief White. The mayor said that at one time there were as many as 20 local ambulance service volunteers, while now there are only 4 with the majority of volunteers coming from “off island” and requiring adequate accommodation on the island. “ I bring this up as a Frontenac County Paramedic Services issue and to determine whether the Medical Clinic Board (MCB) would be willing to provide overnight accommodation for the volunteers in their new building proposal. The Mayor reiterated his comments regarding the value of the volunteer service, the importance of maintaining it and the disadvantages of the options if it can’t be maintained. ”The ferry would go the wrong way,” he said. Councillor Doyle said the MCB would like to help and has discussed options, a bi-level, larger facility. Following some discussion it was left to the key players to meet and determine what to do about the issue, how better to accommodate ambulance volunteers. (FYI: A follow-up meeting was held on April 21st at which time the subject was fully discussed with the mayor stating once again that the community expects the volunteer accommodation (plans,funding options) issue to be resolved. The Medical Clinic will proceed with its building but consider county/ township options for some collaboration (extension & land use). In the interim the MCB will provide “ high speed internet” for both itself and the ambulance volunteers. K. Walton was concerned about the independence of the Medical Clinic board.
Under new business: The Township will submit a request to Ministry of Natural Resources for a deer count on both islands and to reduce the deer population on Wolfe Island to acceptable levels.
The Dispute Resolution protocol with regard to the Wolfe Island Wind Plant prepared by McIntosh Perry was accepted. The information will be posted on the township’s web site.
Frontenac County is holding meetings about changing the makeup of the county. Legislated Public meetings: WI Town Hall, Thurs. Apr. 30th,. Howe Island, May 14th. Both 7-8 pm.
P. Thompson of TCMS has completed building condition surveys of the WI Community Hall and the township’s Leander Street property with a number of upgrade options. The WI Historical Society is interested in the latter property. A meeting regarding both will be held at the WI Community Hall Wed. May 13th 7pm. As well ‘Pitch In’ dates have been set for both islands.
Mayor Vanden Hoek has concerns about the how the Community Centre Board can further proceed with the new rink on Wolfe Island and sees the necessity of engaging the province. This will be an agenda item at the May 11th Frontenac Islands Council meeting on Wolfe Island.
Around Town:* Much of the equipment used for wind turbine construction has already left the island. All 86 towers are now in place. A few minor glitches prevented the test start up of a few towers until early in May. It is unclear at the moment when the work on the Barrack Street ramp will happen. *Regulation boards are up around the new island rink. The township is looking for volunteers to serve on the Community Centre Board. It oversees the operations at the Community Centre grounds, coordinates/sponsors a number of fund raising and community events. If interested submit your name to the WI Town Hall. *A contract has been signed for a new medical clinic building.
Coming Events: Sacred Heart School’s Spring Fling Thurs. May 7th 5:30 pm. Tickets $5 *Pitch In Day May 9th Wolfe Island * Mothers Day Walk to Big Sandy May 10th Info: Vicki Johnson 613-385-1521 FISH FRY” & Plant Sale WI United Hall May 16th *Community Euchre UC Hall Thurs. 6:45 pm
OSPREY CHOOSE PRECARIOUS PERCH??
Concern has been raised on Wolfe Island about Osprey which decided to build their nest on one of the hydro lamp standards for a baseball diamond at the Community Centre grounds.
It is not unusual for Osprey to build nests on utility poles. As a matter of fact Osprey have been doing much the same thing at Belle Park in Kingston and in 2008 caused a power outage. The differences between the two situations, however, are rather striking . The nest in Kingston according to news reports was a meter wide and in a fairly isolated area.
The nest under construction on Wolfe Island was in the heart of the community of Marysville and in a much earlier state of development, a first time build, and there were no eggs when the situation was brought to the attention of Frontenac Islands Township. According to information about Osprey, egg laying does not happen until the nest is complete.
MNR granted a one time permit for the nest to come down and it did. While there appears to be no concern on the part of the Osprey over the level of activity presently going on around them, the light pole (one of many) on a ball diamond, and is in close proximity to a school, a children’s playground, a church and a number of homes. People run inside the ball diamond. Children and teachers use it, people walk their dogs and during the summer the community centre grounds buzz with activity, horse shows, the Family Ball tournament and the Music Festival.
The township is looking at ways to safely dissuade the birds from rebuilding on any of the many dangerous light poles and will erect a pole and platform a safe distance from the site as one option, as the Osprey seem determined to rebuild. (Hydro One also added deterants on top all the light poles to prevent attemps at rebuilding)It is important to say that Osprey have safely nested on Wolfe Island for years and their numbers are on the increase. But, the window of opportunity was small. What else to do? Turn off the power to a ball diamond? Close down the Community Centre grounds ?
As the Wolfe Island Medical Clinic Board pursues its objective to build a clinic appropriate for the islands needs, a rumour of the possible demise of the island’s volunteer paramedic ambulance service keeps rearing its ugly head. A terrifying thought for any islander but more particularly perhaps for those at risk of heart attack, stroke and other medical emergencies where time is of the essence. Knowing that there are trained personnel and an ambulance available is for many, what makes it possible to live on the island. Next to the ferry itself, the ambulance is a life line and continues to be a number #1 island priority.
Paul Charbonneau, Frontenac County’s Director of Emergency Services& Transportation Services, Chief of Paramedics is also well aware of the importance of the ambulance service to the island. He said in a recent telephone interview “that the idea that the ambulance service would leave the island is absolutely incorrect. As a matter of fact, a Rural Ambulance Service Review completed by the IBI Group says the WI Service is very efficient and based on the number of calls it receives, there should be no change to its volunteer operation.”
Charbonneau went on to correct a statement that is circulating that the WI Service has only four volunteers. “No, he said, “the service has fourteen volunteers but only four of them reside on the island, and that’s one of the major challenge we are having. We need recruits. Campaigns have been held every year since the County has been operating the Emergency Services. But despite hard recruiting, we have had relatively little success in getting “local Island people” to volunteer.” He noted that the island’s ambulance service has been kept operating because a number of trained volunteers from ‘off the island’, who for a number of reasons, come and spend week nights and week ends at the station. “A teacher from Kingston, a lawyer from Toronto, a MTO employee among others,” he said.
Charbonneau pointed out that the government continues to change the requirements for someone to be a paramedic even at the volunteer level making it more difficult operate a volunteer service. “At one time you could be a volunteer with a drivers license and a first aid certificate and maybe 20 hours of training. Now however the training is almost 200 hours, which is a big commitment. So big in fact, I had someone who is retiring to the island call to volunteer and when he heard about the training etc. he said he was not looking for a part-time job, just a volunteer experience. So, we are challenged, absolutely challenged in trying to keep our volunteer numbers up.”
The cost of the Volunteer Ambulance Service right now is $160,000. Volunteers receive $5. per hour and $50 per call as compared to $35-$40 per hour for permanent staff. To operate the same type of service with paid employees 24/7 would be $1Million, approximately six times more. Some of the costs are picked up by the province and the balance covered by the County and Kingston. Remember that the county recovers all its costs from the townships.
According to Charbonneau the challenges for the Wolfe Island service are two fold, volunteer recruitment and volunteer accommodation since 75 percent of the volunteers come from off the island. The space the volunteers have at the island’s emergency services building is very public and not conducive for sleep because the Fire Hall is often used for community events, training , receptions, etc. “When it was built, all the volunteers lived on the island. They would go to a call, come back, clean up the ambulance and go home. I don’t think we will ever get back to that style, maybe 50/50.” He added that as a short term solution, an office in the building has been made available for the volunteer.
Charbonneau stated that 16 is the optimum number of volunteers required to service Wolfe Island noting the number is presently down to 14. There are two trainees however who may be on the road in May. “ But right now in April we are even more challenged to fill all the shifts on the island. That means there will be days with only one ‘first response’ volunteer with the ambulance, other days it will be fully staffed on the island and days when the island is serviced from Kingston. The County is working with MTO to make sure that the boat is located in the right location in that situation,” he said. “ It is important to state that I see this April staffing problem as temporary ,” Charbonneau said. “Volunteers have taken time off and students are writing exams. Things will improve but those are the challenges that keep coming up because, we are just not recruiting volunteers. So I hope ‘the positive’ from this discussion will be that people will come forward who thus far we have been unable able to find..
Mr. Charbonneau indicated he has held a number of meetings on Wolfe Island about the ambulance service. At one meeting there was a suggestion that the island should only have a first response facility. ” But that is not where we are going. We are committed to ensuring that the volunteer ambulance service continues. And with the help of Mayor Vanden Hoek and members of council we are coming up with some new strategies. The Mayor has come up with some very innovative ideas as to how we can support volunteer training,” Charbonneau said.
“I have spoken to Councillor Doyle, (council representative to the Medical Clinic Board) about possible accommodation/space for ambulance personnel in the new Medical Clinic facility under consideration by Medical Board . (At a recent meeting of the Medical Clinic Board a resolution was passed to consider a proposal from the municipality to provide accommodation for the ambulance service staff in the new medical clinic building.)
Charbonneau is hoping that ‘the positive outcome’ of informing the community about the situation with the ambulance service will be that people, whom thus far they have not been able to find, will recognize the need and come forward. “If I could recruit 20 WI Ambulance Service volunteers, we would have a viable service well into the future. Right now I would be happy with four.”
Around Town: *Busy weekend on Wolfe Island. Cyclists in droves to see wind turbines.
The Mayor Speaks Out!
Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek spoke out today about the difficulties facing the Wolfe Island Volunteer Ambulance Service.” I think that the WI service is most important to the island. We would be a poorer community without it. But the challenges is that 75 %, (8 of 12) of the volunteers are now from the mainland and we have to find a way to have more island volunteers,” he said.
“We met with Paul Charbonneau, Director of the Paramedic Services and Frontenac County staff who are looking at incentives, perhaps changes to the volunteer compensation, pay for training and ways to make conditions more acceptable for volunteers. There are two pieces to this. We have island volunteers and the non-island volunteers and as the number of ‘non-island’ volunteers increased we did not provide better overnight accommodation. As well as accommodating non island volunteers, the key to the success of the island’s service is to have more island volunteers,” the Mayor reiterated. In a recent Ambulance Service review there is no indication on the part of the service provider to take the ambulance service away from the island but it must have more volunteers.
Vanden Hoek believes Wolfe Island is the perfect place for a volunteer service. “We really have no other option if you think about it. We do not want to go to “First Response” because that would mean the ferry is on the wrong side of the river. I know the community wants the service to thrive but the next significant step is to acknowledge the incredible work of our present volunteers and at the same time create a spirit of volunteerism that steers islanders to the Ambulance Service because without that we will be challenged for a long time. I want islanders know that. We absolutely have to have a Volunteer Service . With our call volume there is no other operating model for the island. In the past number of years we have done a number of things to improve the service but we have to do more. The opportunity that exists with the Medical Clinic at this time offers a way to anchor the Ambulance Service for the next 25 years. Let’s take advantage of that opportunity and then do what it takes to get more Wolfe Islander’s to come forward. I am sure we can make it happen. (Medical Clinic board president, Mildred Hawkins-Walton has already indicated the willingness of the board to look at ways to assist with volunteer accommodation as they plan for their own new facility.)