Sidney to borrow up to $10 million for new fire hall

Largest borrowing in Sidney's history will not go to the electorate, as Town opts for assent-free borrowing.

Sidney's existing fire hall is more than 30 years old and is slated to be replaced.

Sidney's existing fire hall is more than 30 years old and is slated to be replaced.

(Updated to correct comments attributed to Mayor Steve Price)

Concern that “the powers of no” could mobilize against them has prompted Sidney town council to proceed with assent-free borrowing of up to $10 million for its new fire hall.

Heralded as the largest borrowing of its kind in Sidney’s history, the money is expected to cover the construction of a proposed community safety building on municipal property south of the Mary Winspear Centre, near the current skate park close to the Pat Bay Highway. The building — a combined fire hall, ambulance station and emergency response facility — is estimated to cost between $5 and $8 million. The larger threshold gives the town some wiggle room if needed.

The decision to borrow the money directly was not unanimous. Three councillors Monday night argued that early in the process, council had promised the public they would used the Alternate Approvals Process (AAP) — or counter-petition — to get the electorate’s assent to borrowing. Under the AAP, 10 per cent of registered voters (902 people) would be given 30 days to indicate their opposition to borrowing the money.

Mayor Steve Price said he wanted the assent-free borrowing option because of the possibly risk that certain groups could mobilize.

“My very real concern is that certain groups of individuals who have been spreading misinformation via petitions this year have made it clear they were ready to do it again with the CSB and potentially put our community at physical and financial risk,” Price stated in an email to the PNR Tuesday morning, referring as well to letters in the local paper which have come out against borrowing.

“As mayor I can not let that happen to our residents,” he continued. “I can not risk our firefighters’ or our residents’ lives.”

Councillors Barbara Fallot, Peter Wainwright and Erin Bremner-Mitchell felt using the AAP was the way to go, after council had promised to use it during the early discussions about the project.

“It’s what we said we were going to do,” said Fallot. “It isn’t about delaying it … we have an obligation to residents to do things in an appropriate process.”

Wainwright added in cases in the past where Sidney used the AAP, it succeeded cleanly.

“This is the largest borrowing the Town has ever done,” he said, “and in the past, with smaller numbers, the Town has gone with the AAP.”

Wainwright said there’s already a perception in the community that council doesn’t listen.

“Not doing the AAP adds to that and gives the perception that council doesn’t give people, the electorate, credit for having common sense.”

None of the three councillors opposed to the assent-free borrowing option are opposed to the project itself.

However Price said he’s not willing to take the risk that the AAP fails, which would force the Town to go to a referendum, adding time and cost.

“There has been no significant, legitimate opposition to the fire hall from the general population; but there will be once certain groups get a chance to put more misleading information out there,” he said, adding he wasn’t prepared to gamble on increased costs, especially since the town intends on building it.

Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey added he feels opposition — especially based on false information — is a real possibility.

“People vote with their heart, rather than with their logic,” he said.

Coun. Cam McLennan added delaying the project could put people at risk.

“This is something we need,” he said. “And everyone will cry when the (existing) fire hall is lost in an earthquake.”

In a 4-3 vote, council set in motion the assent-free borrowing bylaw.

What that means, is the Town has a threshold of borrowing it can do, based on an annual debt payment limit (principle and interest) of $952,625 — or five per cent of Sidney’s annual revenues.

Sidney’s current debt payments amount to $330,500. The $10 million for the community safety building project would add around $509,000, leaving room for an additional $113,000 in assent-free borrowing capacity.

Town staff point out that the municipality can actually borrow five times the assent-free limit — but that is a different process altogether.

The borrowing bylaw will be drawn up by staff and presented to council for approval soon.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bill Almond’s observatory in its new home on a Saanich lakeside. (Submitted/Cameron Burton)
Colwood stargazing dome makes a move to Saanich

The backyard structure finds a new home after 30 years

Chris Grzywacz, development agent for cannabis supplier Seed and Stone’s, holds products from the new Songhees Cannabis S + S store on April 20. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)
First cannabis store opens on Songhees Nation, creates economic opportunity says chief

The Songhees Cannabis S + S had a soft launch at its 1502 Admirals Road location on April 20

Steven Manchur, who lives near the proposed site of supportive housing in Central Saanich on Prosser Road, said the province has misinformed the public about the site. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Central Saanich residents protest supportive housing project

BC Housing rejects claim that project will lead to more crime

RCMP have appealed to the public for help identifying the man. (Black Press Media file image)
Police, dog unit called after man exposed himself at West Shore elementary school

West Shore RCMP credits students, aged 11 and 5, for seeking help

A convicted sex offender, whose crimes included offences against children, was arrested at Gonzales Beach after the man was spotted by an off-duty officer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Convicted sex offender arrested at Gonzales Beach

After committing crimes involving children, offender barred from public beaches, being in proximity to kids

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read