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New fire hall construction question affirmed by City of Powell River Council

Councillors, mayor vote in favour of assent voting wording for upcoming election
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CONSIDERED RECOMMENDATIONS: City of Powell River councillors passed first three readings of a borrowing bylaw and voted on a referendum question for a new fire hall, to potentially be located at 7160 Duncan Street, which is at the corner of Ontario Avenue.

City of Powell River council has endorsed an assent voting, or referendum question, for the October 15 municipal election, for a proposed $7.5 million new fire hall.

At the June 2 city council meeting, councillors considered two recommendations related to putting out a question to voters on a new emergency services facility.

The first recommendation was that the fire hall/emergency services facility loan authorization bylaw be read for the first three times and referred to the provincial inspector of municipalities.

Councillor George Doubt said this is a step the city has to go through before it can do the referendum process.

Mayor Dave Formosa said the bylaw does not mean the city is building a fire hall, it means there will be a referendum question, therefore the city needs to get its ducks in a row.

“That’s what we are doing, so if the public says yes, then we’re in place,” said Formosa. “If they say no, then we do not go forward.”

Council unanimously carried the first recommendation.

Councillors then contemplated a second recommendation, which contained the assent voting, or referendum question, for the October 15 municipal election.

The question is as follows: Are you in favour of the City of Powell River adopting fire hall/emergency services facility loan authorization bylaw 2695, 2022, to authorize borrowing of a sum not to exceed $7.5 million, with interest, over a maximum term of 20 years, in order to finance the construction of a new fire hall/emergency services facility at the city’s public works yard property located at 7160 Duncan Street?

Doubt said this will set things in motion for the assent of voters. He said council is following the suggestion of a committee struck to look into construction of a new fire hall.

“We will see what comes out of it,” said Doubt. “It will now be in the hands of the voters come election time.”

Formosa asked why the borrowing term is 20 years, rather than a 25- or 30-year term, so it could be a little easier on taxpayers.

Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said the 20-year term was estimated at a $68 cost for the average household in the city, versus $51 if it was over 30 years.

“Over the [20-year] term you would pay less interest and that was the recommendation the committee sent forward for council’s consideration,” said Brewer.

Doubt said the 20-year term would be less of a dollar cost over the term to taxpayers.

Brewer said in terms of building a new hall, more recently, some of the strategic priorities funding from senior levels of government have changed criteria to allow fire halls to be eligible for grant applications.

“In the past, it’s been for retrofits of existing halls as opposed to new builds,” said Brewer. “It looks like the feds have been listening to some of the advocacy to include fire halls in those federal infrastructure grants.”

Formosa said this is good news.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll win a grant, but we now have a chance,” he added.

Council voted unanimously to endorse the referendum question for the municipal election in October.

Construction cost

During question period at the end of the council meeting, councillors were asked by the Peak where the $7.5 million construction figure came from – if the number had come from the firehall committee.

Brewer said that was the case.

When asked if the figure had been verified as adequate by a professional source, such as an architectural firm, Brewer said council had directed staff to prepare a request for proposals for the purpose of making a design.

“Staff’s working on it currently,” added Brewer.

Formosa said if the electorate votes for the question put before them, there will be up to $7.5 million for construction of a new fire hall.

“That gives comfort to the electorate,” said Formosa. “That was the tolerance of what the committee felt for spending.”

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said the $7.5 million figure would not include potential funding if the city is successful in procuring grants.

Councillor George Doubt said through the deliberation of the committee, they came to the conclusion that they felt the fire hall could be built within that cost and that was what the community would bear, possibly.

“That would provide a maximum of $7.5 million borrowing, there could also be grant money, and money taken from reserves,” said Doubt. “It’s possible it could require borrowing of less than $7.5 million.”

 

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