The Village of Cumberland is moving ahead on getting electors’ approval for its proposed fire hall. At the Sept. 30 meeting, council approved motions to set out the process to gain electoral assent in order for the Village to borrow $4.2 million for the project.
As a result, any electors who want to express the objections must submit a response to the Village by a deadline of Dec. 2, 2019. Council opted to gain voter assent through the alternative approval process (AAP), as opposed to going to referendum.
At the latest meeting, staff presented council with numbers of electors used to determine the minimum 10 per cent threshold that has to be reached if electors are to defeat the borrowing bylaw. According to staff, the number of electors was determined to be 2,958 but with non-resident voters accounted, the total comes to 3,100. Subsequently, the AAP threshold is set at 310.
On its website, the Province notes that the AAP may be used in situations “such as disposal of certain utilities or specified parkland, municipal boundary extensions, and municipal loan authorization bylaws,” for which they need the approval of electors.
The process used to be known as a counter-petition.
The decision at council was not unanimous. Coun. Jesse Ketler did not question the need for a new fire hall but expressed concerns both at the Sept. 30 meeting and the previous meeting about the scale of the project, and what the level of borrowing could mean to Village finances. She was the only vote against the AAP motion.
She suggested the design, which was on the agenda at the Sept. 9 meeting, could have incorporated other community uses, such as affordable co-op housing, which could be developed to offset the price. She also noted the community is getting closer to a population of 5,000, at which point it would require RCMP.
“The public are going to decide,” she said. “I just wish we would have given them more options.”
Mayor Leslie Baird responded that RCMP would be stationed in Courtenay, as the detachment covers the Comox Valley region, so the Village would not need its own detachment.
Finally, council had to vote on a budget amendment associated with the borrowing bylaw for the new fire hall. Because of changes to estimates, this amendment will increase the figure from $4 million to $4.2 million. Council also passed this, with Ketler voting in opposition.
At the Sept. 9 meeting, Kyle Schick of Finlayson Bonet Architecture and Jordan Almond of MKM Projects presented the updated designs for the new building to house the Cumberland Fire Department. Fire Chief Mike Williamson also talked at the same meeting about reasons a new structure was necessary, in particular, to have a building to cover equipment, especially if the department has to add a ladder truck in the future to protect higher buildings, as well as concerns about the stability of the current building.