Central Saanich council’s recent approval (in principle) for the much-needed volunteer fire hall is now facing outside attack by a negative minority in the community who are using the alternative approval process to fight against it. Former council members who had once agreed to build it are now working against it, in the name of politics.
The decision has been made by the elected council for the right reasons and it will be paid for in a manner that Central Saanich can afford.
It is not in dispute that the current fire hall was not built to seismic standards and this has been known since the 1985 and 2002 reports from the Fire Safety Underwriters. If “the big one” hits here as happened in Japan, Christchurch, New Zealand and Chile we’ll be unprepared and the people who need help the most will be without it.
The only reasons against moving forward are political. Politics need to be decided at the ballot box. At this point, the reasons to proceed are more important and supported by facts and reality.
Council has already purchased property at below market prices in a preferred location and saved more than $100,000 by using existing designs from an architect that were used in previous working fire stations. The new building and design will serve the district for 40-plus years and is built to withstand one-and-a-half times the seismic forces of a regular building. A fallacy is that there are new fire trucks required. There are not eight new fire trucks being bought as some have been lead to believe. That claim is false. A deposit and money approved by the previous council was put aside for one new truck to replace a 25-year-old one. No more.
This is not a pre-cursor to a full-time fire department. The fire hall design is to maintain a volunteer/composite fire department into the future. Borrowing at record-low interest rates makes more financial sense than the usually sensible argument that we should “pay as we go”.
While some issues should be decided by referendum, this is one that shouldn’t, because there is no credible basis for believing that the majority of people in Central Saanich oppose supporting our volunteer service or don’t want proper fire protection response and a fire station that will still be standing in the event of a natural disaster. A referendum process will add many costs in time and money.
I don’t look forward to the prospect of the minority who oppose the new fire station misrepresenting the facts and circumstances to get 10 per cent of the electorate to sign their petition. We have already seen people who signed the petition — then found out the facts — emailing the municipality to have their petition against thrown out.
This is an issue where we can all come together. Another negative, cynical political campaign won’t help anyone and can’t change the facts.
I’m writing to inoculate residents against misrepresentations that opponents may attempt to use to manipulate public opinion in their effort to the oppose the new fire station.
I hope that residents will make an informed and logical choice to support Central Saanich Council’s decision to proceed. Please contact Fire Chief Ron French at 250-652-4444 or call me, Ron Kubek at 250-544-2929. We will show you the actual plans, the proposal, and most of all provide you with the facts.
Our firefighters and our community deserve the best decision we can make on this important public safety issue.
Ron Kubek is a councillor for the District of Central Saanich.