Concerns raised about new $7.5 million firehall/ambulance base

Bracebridge councillors have given their blessing to a new $7.5 million joint District ambulance/Town fire station, but not without some concerns.

This week focus was on how traffic will enter and leave the property, which is located at 225 Taylor Road.

The main entrance will be off Taylor, while a secondary gated entrance/exit is located off the relatively quiet Joseph Street.

Councillor Archie Buie asked why the secondary entrance, to be used only during emergencies, would be restricted with a gate, noting that at times, Taylor can be especially busy with traffic.

“There can be lots of traffic on Taylor while fire trucks are trying to get in and out in a hurry,” he said, adding that this might make things difficult at times. Buie raised the spectre of resulting traffic jams and accidents.

“Why are you suggesting staff coming and going can’t use Joseph Street versus Taylor and avoid the possibility of congestion?” he asked.

Bracebridge Fire Chief Murray Medley replied that the issue will likely be addressed as they move forward with the site plan agreement.

Medley said years ago, the affected area had been zoned residential and at that time, area residents were concerned with the possibility of traffic buildup from potential condominiums or apartments going in and they wanted traffic access restricted.

“That’s the reason it’s there (the decision to put up a gate),” he said. “(It’s) not to stop a firehall from using it.”

Town CAO John Sisson said the restriction to prevent ongoing usage of Joseph Street as a regular entrance into the property was put into the Town’s Official Plan at the time.

“Ultimately, council may have the authority to change the official plan,” he said. “But this is not part of this proposal.”

Another concern at this week’s General Committee meeting was the issue of shared space at the property between the District ambulance staff and the Bracebridge firefighters.

Councillors were assured this issue had been keenly looked at during the design phase and that more tweaks to improve it could happen as the plan moves forward.

“The concept of a design-build has served us well,” said Mayor Graydon Smith. This is a pretty big day for us. This is the culmination of years of work, of site identification, of planning for what will be the central fire station and EMS station for this community for decades to come. Taxpayers should be heartened we’ve combined these facilities into one. It does present a significant amount of cost savings in terms of sharing some space, common HVAC facilities and common site planning which otherwise could have been duplicated.”

Smith expects councillors may see a revised floor plan of the facility at some point in the future.

Built into the design is room for a full time Bracebridge Fire Department, in order to be prepared for the day the Town service changes from a volunteer force.