Saturday is referendum day on Hornby Island, where residents will have their say as to whether or not they want a new fire hall.
An alternate approval process in January garnered 212 response forms — more than a 10 per cent threshold — preventing the regional district board from adopting a bylaw to borrow money to construct the hall.
A select committee has capped the project at $1.9 million.
“We have to be within those confines of that budget,” said Ian Smith, the CVRD’s general manager of community services.
Pending voter approval, the project would be funded by $1.6 million in debt financing, $200,000 in federal gas tax funds and $100,000 from reserves.
Borrowed funds would be repaid through taxes. The increase to the average property, assessed at roughly $455,000, would be about $24 per year.
A 2008 report by Fletcher Pettis Consultants suggests a new hall would cost more than $2.1 million. In another document obtained by The Record, a 2011 cost estimate pegs the project at more than $2.5 million.
Smith said both reports are outdated and based on Class D estimates, which are based on best available information and unknown site conditions.
“A class D is not based on design drawings,” he said. “We’re working off of current data. What the construction market is telling us for prices and what the suppliers are giving us, we’ve got actual numbers that we’re working on. Our numbers are a lot tighter.
“The estimates that we have in now are based on design drawings, and has been based on the input given to the architect from the fire department and the select committee. As you move forward in a process you start refining your numbers. We’re at a number now that indicates that we’re within our budget. You keep refining those numbers until you get up to your final estimate. Right now, with the estimates we have in, we’re still within that budget.”
What if the project runs over budget?
“Then we evaluate it,” Smith said. “We would work with the select committee, we would work with the fire department. What adjustments do we need to do for the project in the scope to get it within budget? We would thoroughly explore our options.”
One option would be to explore other possible funding, such as grant money.
The project — initially considered in 1997 — is identified as a board priority. The district secured a one-hectare grant of Crown land for a new facility across Central Road from the existing fire hall. Inspections and engineer’s reports deemed the existing hall unsafe for firefighters, with functional and spatial deficiencies. It would also perform poorly in a moderate earthquake, according to information on the CVRD website.
“If things fall into place, it will be a really good service for the Island,” manager of fire services James Bast said. “The fire hall is one aspect of it. We’re looking at the next 50 years (life of the facility). This is legacy stuff.”
Hornby firefighters provide a first responder service, but the island doesn’t have a BC Ambulance service station. The nearest car is on Denman Island.
About 25 years ago — when the fire service recognized the time lag for ferries in case of an emergency — it purchased a decommissioned BC Ambulance car.
“Under the direction of the medical doctor that’s stationed on Hornby, they’re transporting the patient to transfer to the Denman Island ambulance,” Bast said. “The fire service found there was a gap in service, and they filled it.”
The CVRD is proposing to Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) a pilot project where BC Ambulance provides a car, while the fire service provides volunteers to handle transport of patients.
“What we’re suggesting is we’ll have a better management of a quality patient care if it’s a BC Ambulance service from start to finish, instead of transferring,” Bast said. “It’s just a concept at this point.”
If the referendum is successful, a second tanker truck will be purchased to service Hornby.