Support unanimous for new fire hall in Qualicum Beach

No new tax increases planned for post-disaster-ready facility that could cost as much as $5.8 million

Mayor Teunis Westbroek enthusiastically threw his support behind the new fire hall project Monday night.

Reading from a prepared statement at a town council meeting, Westbroek cleared the air regarding his support. He has supported it for years, he said, but he has made comments in the past few months that could have led some to believe he was questioning both the need and timing for the building, which could cost as much as $5.8 million.

“This plan is a good one,” said Westbroek, who had a heated exchange with Coun. Mary Brouilette earlier in the meeting when the councillor raised comments by the mayor made at the Nov. 4 council meeting about the number of recent calls to which the fire department had responded (three in all of October). “The feeling of safety is important. I see this as an insurance policy for the whole town.”

This is a solid project — but it’s also expensive.”

Council unanimously passed a motion Monday to endorse the preliminary design for the new fire hall on town-owned land on Rupert Road close to the roundabout. The motion also directed staff to proceed with working drawings for the project. Council also passed a motion directing staff to tender a contract for the clearing and grading of the site.

The meeting Monday night ran close to three hours as council debated the fire hall and also gave third reading to the 2014-18 financial plan bylaw, two items that intertwine.

Residential taxes will increase 3.5 per cent next year, but that was always the plan regardless of the fate of the fire hall project. However, one per cent of that increase will be going to service the debt of the fire hall project, instead of its original destination, which was capital projects (mostly roadwork).

Other councillors expressed their pleasure with the progress of the fire hall project.

“I’m quite pleased with what I’ve seen with the process,” said Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer, who noted there will likely be funds coming to the town from land made available by the decommissioning of the current hall downtown. “What I think people forget is the existing fire hall sits on a valuable piece of real estate.”

Coun. Dave Willie said the actual cost to taxpayers for the new hall is likely to be less than the estimated maximum of $5.8 million.

“Hopefully we can whittle it down through some grant applications,” said Willie, who sad he also believes at least one major road project can still get done in 2014, namely work at the intersection of Village Way and Highway 19A.

“I think there are funds there to move ahead with the roundabout,” said Willie. “I would like to see a goal of getting that done next year.”