The team leading the city's core services review have heard loud and clear that the municipality's fire services are not to be touched.
More than 100 people turned out for a public workshop to provide comment on the KPMG-compiled list of 193 suggested opportunities for change Tuesday night.
The turnout was higher than expected and Civic Centre staff scrambled to accommodate the residents, of which only 42 had registered.
Among the suggested opportunities - which were gathered from consultation with city council, city staff (union and management) and the public - was one to find cost savings by reducing staffing at the College Heights and Hart Highway stations to two from four and using more volunteer or part-time firefighters.
"The fire department costs money, we don't bring a lot of revenue in, but we're there for when you need us," said firefighter Fred Wilkinson, also head of the local firefighters' union.
Wilkinson laid out that at least four firefighters are needed to enter a structure on fire and that 15 to 17 crew members are needed to attend to a residential house fire.
"If we don't have a crew of four, we're putting our lives in jeopardy," he said.
Peter Robertson, a captain with the fire department, said he could potentially be committing a crime if crew under his jurisdiction enter a structure with only two on scene.
"You're asking me to make a huge decision that would make me a criminal offender to enter a structure in the Hart highway," Robertson said, referring to Bill C-45.
Also known as the Westray Bill, this piece of legislation became law in 2004 after the 1992 Westray coal mining disaster in Nova Scotia where 26 miners were killed after methane-gas ignited explosion. The legislation added a section to the Criminal Code that establishes a legal duty for anyone directing the work of others to to "take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task."
KPMG engagement leader Alastair Nimmons said response the consultants have received since the the list of opportunities went public Sept. 21 have made it clear that reducing staffing for the fire department is not one that's generally supported.
Mayor Shari Green agreed with that assessment.
"We pay for piece of mind in our fire service and this is an area that I know the fire department's doing a great job communicating with us why we've got the level of service we've got," she said. "I think we're hearing pretty loud and clear it's not supported in the community, by staff, by the fire team and, most likely, by council as well."
Other suggested opportunities relating to fire services include selling suppression services to adjacent communities, establishing mutual aid agreements developing opportunities for cost recovery of fire services.
The three-hour workshop covered nine different emergent themes from the core review process, dealing with issues such as land use, bylaw enforcement, outsourcing, fees and facilities like the Four Seasons Pool, Civic Centre and Pine Valley golf course.
The comments and questions from the public ranged from specific thoughts on opportunities to general questions about how the city works.
"I think you will always have people saying 'Oh, I didn't know you did that', or
'Oh, I didn't know we own that,'" Green said. "All that information is there and it's an ongoing challenge to keep people up to date on every single thing we do."
But the mayor added that she was excited to see so many people taking an interest and the initiative to get involved in the admittedly complicated process.
"I think people will have a real appreciation now for the cost of our services and what we really are willing to spend our money on," Green said.
The online survey to provide comment on the suggested opportunities for change will be on the city website until Oct. 8. A final report is due from KPMG at the end of October.
Note: An incorrect version of this story appeared in print. This is a corrected version, attributing the appropriate quotes to Peter Robertson, not Fire Chief John Lane.