A partnership between the County of Wetaskiwin, Leduc County and 10 Pigeon Lake summer villages for an ice and water rescue program may be in the works.
Delegates from the County of Wetaskiwin attended Leduc County’s March 22 meeting to give councillors an overview of what they are hoping to create and ask for financial support.
Wetaskiwin councillor Larry McKeever says the summer villages have already contributed a combined $49,000 plus $1,000 per year, each. He explained the County of Wetaskiwin is hoping Leduc County can offer $10,000 plus $1,000 per year for five years.
“A lot of that is for training, the start up,” said Wetaskiwin reeve Kathy Rooyakkers.
Leduc councillor Rick Smith asked how an ice and water rescue program/team would engage with other emergency services.
McKeever says it is proposed the boat would stay at the Mulhurst Bay Fire Department, cutting down current response times exponentially. “Yes, we would be (the) first responder … That’s our goal.”
Leduc County council was informed North and South Pigeon Lake Fire Departments are joining forces in the venture but when RCMP is present the departments would answer to them.
Leduc councillor Audrey Kelto asked whether the proposed program would focus on rescue or recovery. McKeever says because of the close proximity to Pigeon Lake it would be both.
Later in the meeting Leduc County council asked Leduc RCMP Insp. Kevin Kunetzki what kind of response time Leduc RCMP water rescue and recovery services has. They were told, depending on whether a trained member was immediately available, it could take between 45 and 90 minutes.
He added both Leduc and Wetaskiwin counties have boats authorized to patrol lakes but Leduc county’s is always kept at the Leduc RCMP detachment, when it is not being borrowed by other detachments.
Leduc County general manager of community services Rick Thomas says the county does have a boat but it is mainly used for enforcing boat safety and educational services.
Leduc councillor Clay Stumph felt maybe this program was taking services away from the RCMP it was already providing. “It seems to me (this is) downloading more responsibility to the municipality that really should be funded by the province.”
“But we can be in the water in 10 minutes,” said South Pigeon Lake Fire Department deputy chief Grant Churchill.
“This is for safety. We’re looking at 12 municipalities that surround that lake, it’s gotten too busy,” said Rooyakkers.
Churchill says last year there were eight requests for aid, including but not limited to missing youth swimmers and Somalians stranded in church camp boats.
Leduc councillor Tanni Doblanko originally made a motion to look at the project during the county’s 2017 budget deliberation.
McKeever says the goal is to have the program up and running this spring. “We would like your support.”
Smith asked the motion be amended to have council look at giving support for this year and administration was asked to see if the funds could come from the Mission Beach Reserve Account. Leduc County council will revisit the matter at its April 5 meeting.