A small group of residents held a press conference on Dec. 16 to speak out against hiring a director of protective services.

They called it a waste of taxpayers' money and are encouraging others to speak out against the hiring.

Spokesman Brian Winter says we already have a fire chief and RCMP inspector and adding another bureautic layer between them and the executive director of Protective and Community Services for $180,000 annually isn't necessary.

"Are you kidding me?" he said. "On the town's organization chart there's already an executive protective and community services person that has the fire department already reporting to that person. Why does the town need a new senior manager and then add a federal organization to the structure?"

"Is the federal government going to pay for half of the salary? I doubt it?"

"We now have a position that will be in the budget with increases year-to-year until the newly-elected body sees the uselessness of this person, and then the taxpayers will have to shell out severance pay."

He says there are better ways to spend the money.

For one, he suggested it could provide adequate funding for the town to purchase a medical response unit similar to run operated in Nanton and approved by the College of Paramedics to be used as a safety net if an EMS ambulance doesn't arrive.

"A progressive council could set a policy of how this works and staff would follow it. Wouldn't that be better than the fire department transporting a patient in the fire truck, like Airdrie or Calgary, or the RCMP transporting a patient, like the City of Calgary police? Do we need to wait until a tragic event occurs?"

Other options he proposed included purchasing two vans to transport non-emergency patients to Calgary, putting more boots on the ground, or not spending the money at all. 

"These are just examples of what we could do with $180,000. The sky is the limit. We certainly don't need another senior manager."

He says others agreed with their position but were unable to attend the press conference.

Town councillor Marni Fedeyko, who spectated at the press conference, says she's not opposed to the town hiring staff when it makes sense but believes this position isn't necessary at this time. Fedeyko highlighted the hiring during council's budget debate.

She believes the town already has extremely qualified people leading those departments.

"I have questions as to what this position would exactly accomplish and whether it's just another layer of management that, I would hate to say it, has meetings to have meetings to host meetings."

She says she agrees with Winter that it might be valuable for increasing the town's emergency capacity, but it may even be better to not spend it at all.

"There's a lot of people that are really finding it tough right now between being able to afford food, gas, their utility bills. Saving $180,000 a year I think would be beneficial to all of us."

With the budget and position already approved, the question arises as to whether it's too late to stop the hiring.

She says there was not a lot of transparency about the position and that people may not have noticed the expenditure. Both Fedeyko and Councillor Tara McFadden stood opposed to the 2023 town operating budget, on the grounds of lack of transparency and how the tax increase was reduced by taking money out of surplus.

She says it's unlikely the position will be left vacant at this point but says those upset should contact the town councillors who voted in favour of the budget.

"We have a lot of people that contact us to say they're angry, but we're already with them. We need people to approach the other five, to start to take a hard look at what's happening."

She says it is council's role to ask the hard questions, otherwise, why have one?

It's not just the cost of the position but the other related costs and support staff that would be required, says Fedeyko.

"Where there's a branch of one person in a section, there's going to be people that fill positions underneath them."

"The bigger concern is how many people are still left to be hired, and I don't think this council has any idea of what's yet to come."

Winter shared her concern.

"This council has two more budget cycles before the election in 2025, so what's next?" he said. "I don't know."