Lantzville fire chief delays retirement

NANAIMO – Lantzville Fire Rescue doesn't yet have a replacement for outgoing fire chief Tom Whipps.

Lantzville’s fire chief will postpone retirement plans as the community heads into a byelection.

Long-time volunteer fire chief Tom Whipps has agreed to remain at his post another three months while the community hires new politicians and steps are taken to fill his position. He planned to retire as chief this June. The move comes just a month after council received the results of a fire department governance review, which recommends the district transition from a volunteer chief to a paid part-time position. The change would bump the job’s annual budget up from about $18,000 to $55,000.

While council has called for a staff report on the process, job description and financial resources for a part-time chief, it has not moved ahead with recruitment. According to interim chief administrative officer Jim Dias, the problem is wages that would have been allocated in the financial plan for a paid part-time fire chief are not there and council cannot incur a financial liability under the province’s directive.

Four councillors have resigned, and the B.C. government has allowed a trio to continue civic business with limitations that include no strategic direction or new decisions with financial or legal liabilities for the district. A byelection happens this August.

Whipps opted to stay on for continuity. “There was little point in bailing on a short term and the fact is, nobody foresaw four councillors quitting and the whole process coming to a halt,” he said.

Mayor Colin Haime did not respond to requests for an interview.