David Prystay, general manager of the Penticton Lakeside
Resort, is pledging $5,000 if it means maintaining fire service at an
adequate level in Penticton.
A Penticton businessman is pledging $5,000 to help maintain the
city's fire services at what he considers to be an adequate level.
In approving its 2014 budget, city council chose not to replace two
retiring firefighters as a cost-saving measure.
David Prystay, general manager of the Penticton Lakeside Resort, says
if the city is unwilling to reconsider, he will pledge $5,000
annually toward maintaining the two positions. The outspoken hotelier
and bar owner challenged the business community to step to the plate.
"The first responders are the lifeline to our community," Prystay
said in an interview. "Police, fire and ambulance are a necessity and
something we cannot live without. One small disaster and people will
suffer. When you look at any major disaster in Canada or in the rest
of the world, it's the firefighters who are saving people, not our
Council approved its 2014 budget just prior to Christmas. Cutting two
firefighting positions will save the municipality about $150,000, but
the move contradicts the fire department's core service review, which
doesn't call for a reduction in staff.
"Council has taken a look and they've noticed with 30 firefighters
(rather than the previous 32), the operations have continued for the
past several months," Mayor Garry Litke said during budget
deliberations last month.
The issue has dominated letters to the editor of the Penticton Herald
and the newspaper's social media sites, with some people writing in
favour of the staffing reduction and others against it. Prystay is
the first high-profile business person to speak out.
"If we have a big fire going on somewhere and we don't have enough
members to respond, the whole city will pay," he said. "When someone
slips and falls, it's quite often the firefighters who arrive first
due to proximity of fire halls and because police will be busy on
Prystay, a former Vancouver police officer, dismisses the suggestion
that more auxiliary reserve members could be used to save money.
"Reserves are a definite attribute to the service, but we need the
full-time employees to make sure that our city is safe. If we can't
keep the two positions, I'd pledge $5,000 annually and ask the
business community to help out."
In agreement is David Perry, a local real estate agent and former
mayor, councillor and school trustee in Penticton.
"As a former emergency services officer himself, Mr. Prystay knows
first-hand just how important such services are to his fellow
citizens," Perry said.
Perry said reviewing fire operations is nothing new, noting the city
council of 2002-05 recognized the importance of Workers' Compensation
Board requirements that called for a minimum level of responding
"It is one thing not to hire additional firefighters, but not to
replace a retiring complement is foolhardy. All we need is another
motel or hotel fire to have lives placed at risk both inside the
structure and among the responding crew. To suggest that operations
appear to have been going smoothly with a smaller complement when we
have not had a major fire to contend with sings of a 'head in the
"What's next for this council - a proposed cut to RCMP because the
crime rate has been down for six months?"
Gord Wylie, a resident of Penticton since 1965, also disagrees with
"It's crazy," said Wylie when stopped on the street for comment.
"We're talking about the lives of people. I don't care about fixing
up this street or the walkway. Public safety should be foremost in
the community. In a community that's very oriented to retirees and
seniors, these are the people that require these services more than