At present, the Courtenay Fire Department serves the Merville district. File photo

At present, the Courtenay Fire Department serves the Merville district. File photo

Regional district will seek voter assent for Merville fire hall through alternate approval process

Auxiliary hall to be managed by the Oyster River Fire Rescue

Directors on the Electoral Areas Services Committee agree that an alternate approval process (AAP) is the best way to determine if residents want a fire hall in Merville.

A 2016 consultant’s report says a centrally located fire hall in the Greater Merville area would improve the safety of residents, and could lead to reduced fire insurance premiums.

“There is a great swell of support for the fire hall, especially in lieu of the increases in property insurance in this area,” Area C director Edwin Grieve said at the April 20 committee meeting. “It would possibly bring relief for a lot of the property owners within the radius of where the fire hall is going to be. I have been getting a lot of calls in support of this.”

The Comox Valley Regional District had hoped to attain voter approval last fall. But before doing so, the district needed to secure a property.

The CVRD has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) to lease a portion of its property to build the fire hall at 7350 Hwy 19A, adjacent to 1331 Williams Beach Rd. in Merville.

The cost to construct and equip the hall is estimated at $2,110,000. The 2020 annual tax impact for the service would be $303 for a $500,000 residential property. This includes the cost of construction for borrowing and annual service delivery. The budget for the service is reviewed annually and will be adjusted when the hall is paid off.

“I think it’s important,” Grieve said. “I think that the alternate approval process is definitely the superior way to go, being that we are not establishing a service.”

The district plans to hold the AAP this summer, though the date could be delayed to September or later.

With an AAP, local governments can adopt a bylaw if fewer than 10 per cent of electors vote against an initiative.

Fire Protection in Merville is delivered by way of a service agreement with the City of Courtenay. Once the fire hall project is complete, it will be an auxiliary hall managed by the Oyster River Fire Rescue department.

“I’m glad to see it moving forward, and I certainly hope that Mount Washington is the next one on the list,” Grieve said.