Sidney chooses new site for proposed fire hall

Town will consider borrowing money for community safety building near the highway.

Site plans show where a proposed community safety building would go

After the school district last month turned down Sidney’s proposed new community safety building on land next to a local school, the municipality began negotiating with the managers of the Mary Winspear Centre.

On Wednesday, the Town announced they had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Memorial Park Society (MPC) to lease land south of the Centre’s parking lot for a new fire hall, ambulance station and more. The proposal has the Town leasing around 6,000 square metres for a minimum of 75 years.

“This helps ensure the Mary Winspear Centre’s long-term viability,” says Mayor Steve Price. “You couldn’t get a better partnership than with the Town, as we are not going anywhere.”

The lease would put $55,000 into the coffers of the MPC in the first year, Price said. Payments would increase annually by $7,000 until year 11. After that, increases would be based on the inflation rate. Sidney already contributes to the Centre’s budget — 2.5 per cent of the municipality’s gross revenues, or around $260,000 each year.

Price said early estimates for the community safety building are in the $7 to $8 million range and the Town will have to borrow money.

That will mean considering a counter-petition process, Price said.

The Town is basing its early cost estimates on the recently-completed View Royal community safety building. While Sidney would have to borrow money to break ground, Price said they have options to pay off a portion of that. Those include selling the current fire hall site — estimated value of around $3 million, he said — as well as possibly selling, leasing or otherwise disposing of other municipal properties.

The proposed site for the new fire hall is next to the planned overflow parking lot announced earlier this month. Price said the Town has applied for a federal grant for that, adding it’s not expected to cost additional tax dollars.

Access to both the front of the proposed fire hall, Mary Winspear Centre parking and the overflow lot would be from an upgraded spot along Bevan Avenue. There would be rear access (to the fire hall only) from Orchard Avenue.

Price added the community safety building itself will go through extensive design work, as council wants it to be a prominent feature, seen from the highway.

“We want to make this building as iconic a place for Sidney as  possible,” he said. “It has to make people want to turn into Sidney from the highway.”

The existing design for the facility will be re-worked, Price continued, and a working group will look to some of the best-designed fire halls in the world for inspiration.

That working group is being formed by the Town this week, Price said, and will start meeting next week.

In about a month, Price said Sidney will begin public consultations. These input sessions will review concept plans and explain the lease, the Town’s borrowing process and other project details.