North Cowichan to hold PAA on loan for $4.8 million new Crofton Fire Hall – Chemainus Valley Courier
North Cowichan voters will likely be asked in June, in an alternative approval process, if they allow the municipality to borrow $4.8 million to replace the aging Crofton fire hall.
North Cowichan Council decided at its March 16 meeting that it would move forward to replace the existing fire station with a 3,636 square foot facility.
The original proposal called for a new $4.2 million, 2,150 square foot fire hall, but staff recommended the municipality increase the size and cost to allow for training and recreation rooms to be built. installation to be separated. The Council accepted.
A PAA requires that 10% or more of a municipality’s eligible voters sign and submit response forms against a plan to prevent the borrowing process from continuing.
North Cowichan used a PAA process in July 2020 to gain consent from its constituents to borrow $48 million to build a new RCMP detachment.
Only 4.6% of eligible voters in the municipality submitted a Voter Response Form opposing North Cowichan’s plan for the new detachment, and that facility is currently under construction.
If 10% of North Cowichan voters sign forms opposing the loan to replace the Crofton Fire Hall, then the municipality would have to choose to hold a referendum within 80 days, or council could put the project on hold and consider alternatives.
The council considered the option of holding a referendum on the loan for the fire station, which would have been added to the ballot for the municipal elections to be held in October, but decided against it.
In a referendum, a majority of voters must vote in favor of a project before it can go ahead.
Com. Rob Douglas asked the staff what are the advantages of an AAP over a referendum when the municipal elections are only a few months away.
North Cowichan leader Michelle Martineau said an AAP allows council to take the pulse of the community and see where they stand on the issue.
“If we get more than 10% of the [Elector Response Forms back opposing borrowing for the fire hall]then the issue can be put on the ballot in the fall,” she said.
General Manager Ted Swabey added that AAPs usually take place when a council commits to a project that they know the community can’t live without.
“Referendums are usually held for conference centers or sports arenas when a council is unsure if the community is on board,” he said.
Mayor Al Siebring said another way of looking at it is that a fire station is considered essential, while a new sports arena may not be considered essential.
Swabey added that ever-increasing construction costs are also to be considered.
“The increase in construction costs between getting a PAA and building in eight months versus waiting eight months and building in 12 to 16 months would be substantial, and that would mean higher costs for taxpayers,” he said.
A staff report said that at current interest rates, financing a $4.8 million loan over 20 years would result in total annual debt service costs of approximately $325,000 per year, or $17.04 per average household in North Cowichan.
Staff have been instructed by council to develop a communications plan to inform residents of the fire station project and the AAP, and will report to council with the details.