Kingston City Council approves property purchase for new fire, paramedic station
At its meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023, Kingston City Council voted to direct City staff to execute the purchase of two parcels of property in the city’s west end, anticipated to be the site of a new fire and paramedic station.
The plans that brought the City to this point have been in the works for nearly a year. In July 2022, the council at the time received a report from the Arts, Recreation and Community Policies Committee, which outlined the findings of a recent study on Kingston Fire and Rescue response times — the Station Location Study and Response Time Optimization Assessment.
This report found a deficit in Kingston Fire and Rescue reaching its travel time targets for first arriving emergency resources affecting 34 per cent (or 41,095 people) of Kingston’s urban population. The report also outlined service improvements which would “optimize emergency response coverage and response time performance” — among them, establishing “an optimized additional fire station and staffing at a location to reduce response time issues in the west end urban area.”
Since then, the current City Council approved further plans on this project after reviewing the operational planning model for response time improvements for the local fire department on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. This allowed City staff to continue moving forward with the plans.
While it doesn’t always happen, sometimes after rising from meeting in closed session as the Committee of the Whole, Council votes on whether to make public the information discussed. Such was the case on Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023, when those in Council Chambers (and tuning in virtually) heard that Council had directed City staff to enter into a property purchase agreement with Tamarack (Cataraqui North) Corporation for $3,721,500. That property is known municipally as 495 Taylor-Kidd Boulevard.
Additionally, Council had delegated authority to members of City staff — namely the Director of Business, Real Estate and Environment, Brandon Forrest, with the approval of the Director of Legal Services, Jenna Morley — to approve the purchase of additional property from Taggart (Gardiners) Corporation for $335,700. That parcel of property is known municipally as 1411-1415 Demers Avenue.
To get a better understanding of the project and why it is necessary, Kingstonist sat down with Brad Joyce, the City of Kingston’s Commissioner of Transportation and Public Works.
In order to get the full picture, one must understand the way the City has grown over time, Commissioner Joyce explained. The City of Kingston in its current form is the result of the 1998 amalgamation of Kingston and the surrounding townships. Since then, however, the fire station locations have “remained essentially the same,” he said. Meanwhile, the population has grown by 16 per cent in general and by over 33 per cent in the west end.
Moving closer to the current situation, since 2016, the population has risen by approximately seven per cent in general, Joyce detailed. But at the same time, emergency response calls have gone up 28 per cent — and in the west end, the increase in emergency response calls has been over 75 per cent in the same amount of time.
“So when we did some analysis, what we discovered was that the fire stations [in the west end] are having travel times that are 43 per cent longer than our four-minute benchmark, which was adopted by Council,” Joyce explained.
“So that’s a bit of a problem, and when we looked at it, we realized we really actually need another fire station.”
The central urban area — or the “old Kingston” area — is 32 square kilometres and is serviced by three fire stations, Joyce outlined. The west urban area, south of Highway 401, is 64 square kilometres and is serviced by two stations.
“So as we analyzed the situation, we noticed that, and we realized we need an additional fire station to meet the needs of the population,” said Joyce.
After receiving approval from City Council to establish an additional fire station on the west side of the city, City staff began analyzing what area would need a station to deliver the most ‘bang for the buck,’ so to speak, in terms of improving response times, Joyce said. That analysis found that the area of Taylor-Kidd Boulevard and Demers Avenue would be the most ideal. Staff then began negotiating with the property owners of the two aforementioned parcels of land. The 495 Taylor-Kidd Boulevard property is roughly 4.1 acres, according to Joyce, and the second property (0.4 acres), which will only be purchased if needed, would bring the overall parcel of land (combined) to approximately 4.5 acres.
“The reason we have that option is because the traffic study has to be done and will determine… where the entrance can be,” he said. “We may not be able to have it as close to the corner… and so we might have to purchase that additional piece of land.”
While discussions and planning were taking place around the new fire station, discussions were also occurring with Frontenac Paramedic Services, who indicated they would like to co-locate at the new station, the Commissioner explained.
“So we’ll build it to incorporate that, and they would lease part of the station for their operations,” he said.
While the purchase of the properties has not been completed at this point, Council has approved a total of $4.3 million, which includes covering closing costs, transfer taxes, etc., for the main property Joyce said. Once the traffic study is conducted, City staff will learn whether the second parcel of land needs to be purchased; however, the request for proposals (RFP) for the project went live the day after Council approved the purchases. This was done, Joyce said, in hopes of getting the shovel in the ground some time in 2025 and construction completed in 2026.
With Kingston Fire and Rescue having already indicated they are working to hire more firefighters, the plan is to see the opening of the new station coincide with the expansion of fire personnel. So it’s not surprising that response to the City moving forward with the new station has been positive.
“The firefighters are certainly excited about this,” Joyce said. “They feel it’s been a long time coming, and they’re quite happy to see it moving forward.”
He continued, “People are pleased that paramedics are going to co-locate there… So far, it’s all been very positive.”
According to documents read aloud by the City Clerk at the April 18 Council meeting, up to $4,300,000 be funded from the Fire Capital Reserve Fund for the purchase of lands and related closing costs.