An alternate process is underway for Powell River Regional District Electoral Area B and Electoral Area C residents to approve the replacement of two Malaspina Volunteer Fire Department vehicles, but some residents are balking at the procedure being used to determine the result.
"Malaspina fire department is amazing,” said Brew Bay resident Odette Coccola. “It’s just that the whole process is negative.”
Residents have been asked to only return a form sent out by regional district staff if they do not support the initiative and its associated tax increase.
Coccola said she and her neighbours object to the alternate approval process and compare it to a telecommunication company charging customers for service unless they opt out of.
Because it is summertime, the likelihood of residents not returning the form is greater, she added.
Electoral Area C director Colin Palmer said he did not have any control over when the process took place.
“There’s a need to get on with it,” said Palmer. "It's not as if we deliberately picked the summer so no one would know what's going on.”
According to Palmer, a public information session about the replacement vehicles held at the fire hall on July 22 was well attended by residents. The alternate process was used because it costs several thousands of dollars less than running a formal referendum, he said.
The fire department, funded as a joint service between Electoral Area B and Electoral Area C taxpayers, needs to replace two of its six vehicles, a 21-year-old fire engine and a 30-year-old water tender.
If voters support the purchase and tax increase, the regional district plans to borrow $682,500. Homeowners with properties assessed at the regional average value of $303,640 will see an $83 increase in their 2018 taxes, up to $290 from $207.
If the fire department does not replace the trucks, area residents will be looking at large increases in home insurance costs, said Palmer.
Anyone who does not understand the process or has questions is encouraged to call the regional district for answers, he added.
Regional district staff must receive at least 306 forms by Thursday, September 7, to defeat the approval.