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South-end Guelph finally getting a firehall

Just 5 years after it was first announced, architectural drawings for Guelph's new south end emergency services building were unveiled at a public meeting last night, but it's still some years away.

It will include an apparently bookable "community room", a safe haven -- a room anyone can walk into and lock with a direct line to 911 operators, a collision reporting centre, which I'd never heard of before but is apparently a place to go to report minor collisions rather than waiting for police to show up on the scene, a firehall, and an ambulance bay, along with some police offices, but it will not be a police precinct. That's the basics. It's worth noting that of the 22 people who attended the event at the Salvation Army building on Gordon, only 7 were residents, including 2 couples, and 15 were city, EMS, fire, police, and architectural staff. No city councillors or media were present.

The highlights of the new firehall for me are threefold:

1) The whole southern portion of Guelph will enter a 4-minute response time window for fire services. This is currently not the case with the southernmost firehall being on Stone Rd near the mall. 6 firetrucks will live at this firehall, to be situated next to Bishop Mac on Clair Rd, along with up to 7 ambulances.

2) I inquired as to the future extendability of the facility and it turns out that the groundwork for extensions is being built right into this emergency services centre. The centre section of the building can have another floor added in the future, and the "community room" is being built with a ceiling over 2 storeys high that can eventually be retrofitted to include several more offices. There are also plans in the works to build a windmill on the property to power the building and achieve LEEDS Silver certification. While I suspect that half a century from now, when Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, and Guelph are essentially one city at current growth rates, this emergency facility will need quite a bit of extending, the fact that they're planning for any at all is a good sign.

3) The whole facility is expected to cost just $9.6 million, less than 2/3 what we plan to spend on each of the two parking garages downtown. That I find particularly interesting.

The downside of this, of course, is that it will take another 2-4 years before the south end gets this facility. For a rather needed firehall and EMS centre first announced in 2003 to take longer than the duration of the entire Second World War to be planned and built is somewhat perplexing to me. Downtown's Wilson St lot, after all, was announced in March, will cost significantly more, is taller, in a built up area rather than a greenfield, houses cars rather than services or people, and should be done in a year. And it won't put out any fires.

Posted at 08:25 on May 01, 2008

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