Larry Pierce smelled a rat, prompting him to study a consultant’s report about the proposed construction of a new fire hall on Hornby Island.
The retired lawyer noticed an absence of signatures from Fletcher Pettis or Pomeroy Consulting — which would contravene regulatory requirements.
“There is an obligation, under the Engineers and Geoscientists Act, when an engineer prepares and delivers engineering documents in their professional capacity, they must apply their professional seal to authenticate them,” says Peter Mitchell of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC. “That’s a requirement.”
The 2008 report, which is posted on the Comox Valley Regional District website, does not contain signatures in the space above the names Richard Mastschuch or John Wallace, Pomeroy engineers. However, after queries from The Record, the CVRD’s general manager of community services Ian Smith said Monday the engineers have signed off on the reports. Though correspondence was electronic, he notes electronic signatures were not being used in 2008.
“The engineer (Wallace) has signed off on the authenticity of reports,” said Smith, noting the district will soon update its website with the signed report.
The CVRD is holding an Alternative Approval Process in January to determine if Hornby residents want a new fire hall, estimated to cost $1.9 million.
Ten per cent (83) of 834 Hornby electors need to submit response forms to prevent the CVRD board from adopting a loan authorization bylaw, without first obtaining electoral assent by way of referendum.
Pierce — who feels Hornby can get by without a new hall — is imploring people to submit forms.
“I don’t believe it’s a good thing,” he said, noting the study was conducted six years ago. “Trying very hard to get those 83 signatures to put a stop to this. I really think they (CVRD) need to prove their case to us. They haven’t done that.”
Pierce claims a select committee chaired by Area A director Bruce Jolliffe “took away our right to vote on this thing” in October.
“They voted against us having a referendum,” he said. “They had a choice, they said right in their minutes, either go the AAP route or give us a vote, and they took our vote away.
“That’s just typical for Hornby.”
Jolliffe, who chaired the committee of three citizens, said members were not expected to have engineering qualifications.
“You can ask questions about the thing, but there’s no expectation that they have professional credentials to be able to pass judgment,” Jolliffe said.
Pending approval, the district will borrow $1.6 million over 20 years to help pay for construction. The project — initially considered in 1997 — is identified as a board priority. The district has secured a one-hectare grant of Crown land for a new facility across Central Road from the existing fire hall.
Borrowed funds would be repaid back through property taxes. The average property owner would pay about $24 per year.
Inspections and engineer’s reports have found the existing fire hall is not safe for firefighters, has functional and spatial deficiencies, and would perform poorly in a moderate earthquake, according to information on the CVRD website.
“The reports we had said it would not stand up to an earthquake, and that’s what we’re working from,” Jolliffe said.
“There’s issues with the type of construction that was used in the hall that leads to that conclusion. That was a major driving force that the hall would not stand up to an earthquake.”
Pierce, who was a volunteer firefighter in the Lower Mainland, notes “anything constructed before about 2000 is not to code.”
“It’s more scare tactics,” he said. “I don’t know who they think they’re kidding with this stuff.”
But Smith notes a “number of functional deficiencies” with the building and the site, which is not properly serviced.
“It’s obsolete,” Smith said. “Safety for our firefighters is paramount.
“I think the fire department plays a unique role there (Hornby) because it’s more isolated. It’s more than the fire department. They act in a medical capacity.”