Jason Giesbrecht, Port Edward Fire Chief, was recognized for his “exemplary service and distinction” at their council meeting on Tuesday, June 26, 2019. Left to right: Councillors Dan Franzen and Murray Kristoff, Mayor Knut Bjnordal, Jason Giesbrecht, and councillors James Brown and Christine Mackenzie. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Port Edward council: Fire chief receives honour, city still $1 million in debt for school

Port Edward reviews 2018 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI), fire department at capacity

Jason Giesbrecht, Port Edward Fire Chief, was recognized during Tuesday’s, June 25, council meeting for his “exemplary service and distinction”.

Giesbrecht has acted as the interim fire chief from Feb. – March 2019 after long-time chief Shawn Pettitt left the department. In April, Giesbrecht was made the permanent fire chief.

Giesbrecht has been working with the volunteer fire department since 1998.

At the council meeting he gave an update on his work so far as chief. Most notable, was that the department has reached full capacity for volunteer firefighters, currently processing their 12th application.

“I’m feeling pretty good that we have a wait list. In my six years on council I’ve never seen that,” said Mayor Knut Bjnordal.

Currently, without a mutual aid agreement in place between the District of Port Edward and City of Prince Rupert, the district will not receive help from the city’s professional fire department in the event of an incident.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert fire crews won’t help Port Edward after negotiations fail

READ MORE: Port Edward may cut off water to Watson Island if Prince Rupert does not come to the table

To date, Port Edward’s fire department has responded to 29 calls – up from 11 this time last year. Six calls were regarding fire alarms, none of which involved actual flames, 18 calls were in relation to first response, and five had to do with vehicle incidents.

Giesbrecht is also looking to replace the 25-year-old truck for the department and plans to purchase two new sets of gear this year.

The department will be sending some of their crew to a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) firefighting course and an advanced railcar specialist course put on by CN in Colorado. Giesbrecht said trains carrying LPG hold 10 million litres per train coming through the district which is cause for concern.

Port Edward mayor, Knut Bjnordal (left), presented Jason Giesbrecht, Port Edward Fire Chief (right), with an engraved medal and watch for his “exemplary service and distinction” at their council meeting on Tuesday, June 26, 2019. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Port Edward 2018 Finances

Debt reported in 2016 totaled $1,099,064, of which $1,094,254 came from loans the district is still paying off for the new Port Edward Community School, according to their Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report for 2018.

In 2012, the district got approval to borrow up to $2 million for the project during a referendum. The School District 52 (SD52) board entered into a 20-year lease with the District of Port Edward that will end on August 31, 2032, for the new school.

Currently there are 14-15 students enrolled in the school.

The minimum annual payment for the loan is $74,912 meaning it could take a minimum of 14.5 years to pay off the rest of the loan.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert School District and Port Edward enter into new lease agreements for school

READ MORE: Port Edward awards contract for new school construction

The SOFI report also listed each municipal employee making over $75 thousand per year and the salaries of the mayor and councillors.

Chief administrative officer, Bob Payette, continues to make the most in the district with a total of $129,432 for salary and benefits, more than a 10 per cent raise from 2017 in which he made $113,247.

Alistair Duffus, PW foreman, received $106,362 in 2018.

Lorraine Page, director of finance, and Polly Pereira, director of corporate administrative services, are both shy of making $85,000.

Each councillor — with exception of Murray Kristoff who began his term in October — received $9,607. Mayor Bjnordal received $2,740 since taking office and former mayor, Dave MacDonald, had received $13,701 for his 2018 tenure.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert mayor and council salaries increase, while six-figure club grows by one

Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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