Fernie endorses COVID-19 mutual aid agreement
By Erin Knutson
The City of Fernie recently endorsed a Mutual Aid Agreement for Wastewater and Drinking Water Services in response to COVID-19.
Following the mandate of the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General back in March, regional municipalities supported the introduction of mutual aid agreements with their neighbours for essential services. Authorities touted efforts as a commendable response to the pandemic.
“Out of the pandemic response, we’ll have identified so many other ways to support each other, whether in crisis or not. I think that this is going to be a step in the right direction,” said Mayor Ange Qualizza.
Essential services include first responders and wastewater and drinking services. Emergency Mutual Aid agreements for first response and fire services already exist for several municipalities.
The city recently entered into a Mutual Aid Agreement with the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) to provide fire aid to smaller communities within the RDEK’s jurisdiction, leaving wastewater and drinking services on the table.
The Regional EOC focused on drafting a Wastewater and Drinking Water Mutual Aid Agreement – COVID-19 for Fernie, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Radium Hot Springs, Canal Flats, RDEK, Invermere, Sparwood, Elkford, Tobacco Plains, and Corix Industries (Creston).
According to specifications in the contract, two or more local authorities are to share available resources under specific circumstances.
“This agreement does not obligate regional municipalities to respond. They can make their own decisions depending on their capacity when the request comes in,” said Director of Corporate Administration Services Suzanne Garand.
The agreement is to act as a model. Municipalities have also been encouraged to make agreements with their closest neighbours. In Fernie’s case, an independent contract between Sparwood and Elkford within the Elk Valley.
By entering into the contract, communities are ensured continuity with their water services should they be diminished during the pandemic.