Sidney eyes school site for new fire hall

Town exploring chances of building a new hall near Sidney Elementary.

Working with staff from School District 63, the Town of Sidney will investigate the possibility of building a new fire hall on a portion of the Sidney Elementary School site.

Sidney council had been discussing the plan in-camera and made the proposal public at their Nov. 25 regular meeting. They have directed town staff to develop the terms of reference for a feasibility study, consulting with the school district and complying with conditions set out by the school board, as well as setting out a full public consultation process.

“Council has been looking for a number of years for a new site for our fire hall,” said Mayor Larry Cross.

He added the Town must do its due diligence and explore this option.

The current fire hall is located in downtown Sidney and requires significant upgrades to make it more earthquake-proof.

Cross noted the current hall is not in danger of closing at all, but the matter of building a new facility, with upgrades to its disaster survivability and additional features for the firefighters, has been in the council’s long-term strategic plan for years.

“At this point we are doing the due diligence,” Cross added.

Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said with the land potentially being available from the school district, the Town wants to explore its options.

“We have to ask what practical sites are there (for a fire hall) in Sidney,” Humble said. “That is the question.”

As part of a feasibility study that will commence soon, Humble said staff will consider issues such as cost, noise, traffic, combining fire and ambulance services and safety in potentially locating a new fire hall next to a school. The process will be public, he added, and will work closely with conditions set out by the school district.

Board chair of School District 63, Wayne Hunter, said there is a large parcel of land at Sidney Elementary which could be considered for such a project. However, locating it next to the school means they need some assurances.

Those include: retaining a school district-approved design professional, master planner and traffic consultant; studying traffic conflicts and how to mitigate them; reviewing accident rates at current school sites near fire halls in the region; organizing a public participation process, and other details.

Hunter added any consideration of the project would have to include maintaining a buffer should the school district choose to replace Sidney Elementary.

As for the cost of the land, Hunter said only that capital is important to the district, as they aren’t holding out a lot of hope for provincial government investment any time soon.

That cost would be rolled into a total for the fire hall project through the Town’s feasibility study. Humble said it’s too early to put a price tag on it right now.

Cross added people should expect this study and any further new fire hall planning to be done over the long-term, with plenty of community engagement.