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Al Marshall

From:      "Mark Uhde" <>
To:        "Geoff Ross" <>; "Doug Dougherty" <>; "Gord
           Johnston" <>; "Paul Pieper" <>;
           "Secretary" <>; "Al Marshall" <>
Sent:      Monday, October 11, 2010 11:38 AM
Attach:    Muskoka Lakes Firefighters Flyer 2010.docx
Subject:   Fw: Muskoka Lakes Firefighters Flyer 2010
Happy Thanksgiving everyone,

On behalf of the volunteer firefighters of the township of Muskoka Lakes, I
am inviting you to read the attached information flyer, which we are
currently distributing to as many businesses in the Township of Muskoka
Lakes, for handing out the the shopping public.  We are also going door-to-
door at the cottages on the islands of Lake Muskoka, Rosseau & Joseph,
as well as covering all of the shoreline roads and interior roads, with 6000
of these flyers, to inform the public about serious issues with the current
Council.  At election time, it is important to get this information out, before
too many more taxpayers mail in their votes.  Please help us to spread the

Many thanks from Mark Uhde, secretary for the Township of Muskoka
Lakes Station-9, Milford Bay.
Tel: 705-764-3227
Cell: 705-706-0423

Please enjoy the beautiful weather.

               Do You Pay Taxes
    To The Township Of Muskoka Lakes?
  We need a shake-up in our Council on Election Night 2010, this October 25th. 

       As volunteer firefighters of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, we are raising
awareness to recent changes to your fire protection and emergency response
services. During the final stages of this municipal election in the Township of Muskoka
Lakes, the firefighters who serve you, would like you to know some startling facts about
the way our Council has conducted itself during this current term.

        Voters & Taxpayers, please inform yourselves before casting a vote for the

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        incumbent councilors and mayor, checking on their track record for their past term(s), as
well as their interests and attitude, this time around.  Are they actually interested in working
"for" the taxpayers?

        For the past six months, there has been noticeable tension between Council and the
District Chiefs from individual fire stations within the Township of Muskoka Lakes.  When
matters became very serious, Council directly ordered the District Chiefs on several occasions,
not to approach the media to discuss the issues.  Instead, Council repeatedly used these
occasions with the local media to their advantage, to distort the truth about the on- going issues
that Council was refusing to deal with, further frustrating the volunteer firefighters of the
Township.  Because of recent arrangements between Council and the local media, the
firefighters believed that the distribution of this information flyer was an appropriate means of
communication, to get these facts out to the public. 

      Approximately two to three years ago, Council downloaded policy responsibility to the
CAO (Chief Administrative Officer), thus closing off direct Department Head to Council
communication.  Is Council getting the information they "need to know", or just the "nice to
know" information?

        Council has deliberately shifted the blame for increased spending on the Township's fire
departments, whereas Council itself had approved all of the expenditures in their budgets;
the Fire Chief only makes recommendations.  When Fire Chief Sawkins presented Council
with the carefully developed ten year Capital Forecast, he was instructed to compress the plan
for new fire trucks and equipment, into five year increments.  With their silence, Council has
been misleading the Taxpayers by letting them believe that the former Fire Chief was
responsible for the increased costs.  In addition, it was the need for space at the municipal
office that prompted the construction of a new Port Carling fire station; Port Carling firefighters
were happy with their facility.  They were however, forced to move to the Ranwood Road
Public Works garage for 8 months while their new station was being constructed and the
municipal office renovated.  Money would have been better spent constructing a new Minett
Fire Station as per the 1988 Ontario Fire Marshal’s recommendation.  As a side note, the
majority of the new work space at the municipal office remains vacant.

       The residents of the Township of Muskoka Lakes should realize the value that they are
receiving with regards to their Volunteer Fire Department.  Based on a roster of 160 personnel
(Totals as of July 7th) and the cost of remuneration for those firefighters (2009 total -
$389,426),  the Township would be able to hire 6 full time firefighters (figure based on a 1st
class firefighter with an annual salary of $65,000).  To put this into perspective, that would
provide staff for one shift at only one of the 10 Muskoka Lakes fire stations.

        The Township of Muskoka Lakes Council awarded a construction project for a new fire
hall at Walker's Point, to the building contractor who provided the lowest tender bid.  This
project which was expected to take twelve weeks to complete, incurred extensive cost over-
runs, and was completed two years later.  Sub-standard workmanship, that the firefighters
refused to accept, finally triggered action by the CAO to terminate the contractor's activities. 
Flooding of the meeting room floor, improperly sloped asphalt floors in the truck bays, improper
insulation techniques in the attic space, and additional deficiencies made the use of the new
fire hall impossible. Firefighters refused to put the new fire hall into service until the
deficiencies were corrected.   This construction fiasco, the unwarranted termination of Fire
Chief Jim Sawkins and the total disgust with Council’s unsympathetic attitude led to low
firefighter morale. It was due to this low morale, that on two occasions, a planned "Open

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       House" for the new Walker's Point fire hall was forced to be cancelled. 

      Over the past week, Councilors have stepped forward to reveal the truth surrounding
the events leading up to Fire Chief Sawkins’ termination.  What came to light was that his firing
was solely due to personal vendettas launched by less than a handful of Council members and
had nothing to do with any type of misconduct or mismanagement of the Fire Department.

       A Human Resources consultant and a Human Resources lawyer both suggested that
Council issue a letter of reprimand for the Firefighter protest, as they did not have cause to
terminate Fire Chief Sawkins; yet a slim majority decided to proceed with termination, and the
feelings in Council were not, as the public was led to believe, unanimous.

       When the firefighters protested the termination of Fire Chief Sawkins, Mayor Ellis did
not attempt to communicate with the firefighters.  In fact, the Mayor told the firefighters that
they could leave if they wished to, and they would not “ever” be welcome to come back.  For a
community leader (Mayor) to state this, and alienate the volunteer firefighters was disgusting
and unacceptable.  The Mayor has shown herself to be completely uncaring towards the needs
and concerns of the volunteer firefighters.

        There are currently over thirty firefighters that have either quit, are unable to assist due
to medical reasons, or have taken a leave of absence.  Regardless of whether or not the leave
of absence has been approved, these individuals have not participated with the fire department
(operations and / or training) since Fire Chief Sawkins’ termination.  This amounts to a
reduction of over twenty percent of the fire department, and at some stations reduces their
roster to only forty percent active duty.  The key factor is that most of these individuals are
officers or senior firefighters.  In the meantime, Council and the CAO are misleading the public
in an attempt to hide the real situation, and to protect the Superior Tanker Shuttle Certification. 
Taxpayers, voters and residents of the Township of Muskoka Lakes be aware that you have
not been receiving the same level of fire and emergency-response protection, as prior to July,
2010.  When Fire Chief Sawkins was terminated from service by Council, a significant number
of extensively-trained volunteer firefighters removed themselves from active service, in

       A "Superior Tank Shuttle Certification" rating is achieved, after a fire department
successfully demonstrates an operations activity which guarantees a certain constant
minimum amount of water, delivered to the remote location of an emergency scene five
kilometres away from a suitable water source.  The Township of Muskoka Lakes fire
department successfully performed this training program in 2007.  This "Rating" in
our township allows an insurance company to lower premiums to home and business owners,
because of the guaranteed minimum supply of water, in the event of a fire.  Currently,
the "Rating" status for the Township of Muskoka Lakes is in jeopardy because of the
recent reduction in manpower and licensed fire truck operators.

        A significant quantity of fire-fighting apparel was inspected by a testing facility in June of
this year.  Several coats and pants were tagged as unfit for fire service and they were removed
from service. Almost two and a half months passed before firefighters with unserviceable gear
were measured for new gear.  In addition to this delay there will be an additional eight week
waiting period for the new gear to arrive. This will leave a substantial number of firefighters
with incomplete or non-existent firefighting apparel, which means no active participation on the
front-line of a fire, further crippling firefighting operations and further reducing the number of
active firefighters.

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       There have been conflicting directives from current interim Fire Chief regarding the use
of older "yellow" firefighting apparel.  One directive stated that the "yellow" gear was not
permitted on a fire scene, while a subsequent directive stated that the "yellow" gear could be
worn in some situations.  This has left the firefighters with a lack of confidence in their
leadership, and illustrates a problem with effective communication.

       Former Fire Chief Jim Sawkins recently applied to become a volunteer firefighter at the
Foot's Bay fire station, at the bequest of the Foot's Bay District Chief.  The former Fire
Chief was originally told that he could join and that everything was in order.  The current
interim Fire Chief changed his mind less than a week later, and sent a letter to Jim Sawkins,
stating that he was not allowed to be a volunteer firefighter with the Township of Muskoka
Lakes, due to the current circumstances.  He recommended that Jim Sawkins contact the
Township of Georgian Bay Fire Chief to become a volunteer firefighter at the MacTier fire
station.  Jim Sawkins lives in Foot's Bay which is part of the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

       Now, just before the election on October 25th, some members of Council are applying
pressure to hire a new Fire Chief in "an unprecedented" two weeks compared to
another currently-posted job vacancy ( Building Inspector / By-Law Officer ), which will not
close for one month.  It has been be stated that this was done so that former Fire Chief
Sawkins would not have an opportunity to be re-instated, to his much-loved position, if given
the opportunity by a new Council after the election.  The current Council has been approached
and urged to avoid the rush to select a new Fire Chief.  It has been requested that the
selection of a new Fire Chief be postponed, until after the upcoming election.  This would allow
the newly-elected Council to provide their input, and ensure adherence to the appropriate

When submitting your votes for the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council in the
upcoming election, please consider the questionable actions of the current Council on
this issue as well as the other issues faced by Muskoka Lakes recently and vote
accordingly.  Please visit the following website for information on who currently sits on
Council. You will realize that a clean sweep is necessary to preserve the credibility and
respect that the current Council has painstakingly taken away.  Council’s efforts could
have been better spent fighting real issues such as the Bala Hydroelectric project and
the Port Carling Eastern Boundary expansion rather than disrupting an organization
that was operationally effective.

The information contained in this flyer has also been forwarded to the public via email, for
additional exposure.

       Please Help The Fire Department Serve You Better,
                By Doing Your Part To Clean Up Council.

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If you require additional information on any of the matters described herein, then feel
welcome to contact any of the volunteer firefighters in your communities, who are
always more than happy to communicate with the public.


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