Tough decisions ahead on firehall replacement

Staff directed to give council a list of capital project priorities for Oct. 1 meeting

JOHN HARDING

editor@pqbnews.com

Qualicum Beach needs a new firehall — there’s seems to be little disagreement amongst members of town council and staff regarding that fact.

How and when the town will pay for it is another matter entirely.

At a committee of the whole meeting Monday night, town council instructed staff to come back with options in time for the Oct. 1 regular meeting.

“We need a new firehall,” financial administrator John Marsh told The News on Wednesday. “The question is not if; the question is when. And that’s the political decision council has to make.”

The town brings in roughly $12 million in revenue every year and has expenditures (police, fire protection, salaries, etc.) of about $10 million, explained Marsh. That leaves $2 million for capital projects each year.

Staff was instructed Monday to report back to council what capital project items could be considered absolute necessities.  Coun. Dave Willie said Thursday the existing firehall presents a safety concern and the time is now to replace the facility.

“We’re really concerned about its ability to survive a major disaster, a shake,” said Willie. “We have ben pushing this off for years and years. “The firehall has to be moved up on the priority list.”

Willie said town officials have been touring firehall facilities in nearby communities and he said he was impressed with Nanoose Bay’s new building, which cost that community $3.2 million.

“We can’t see any reason why we’d be spending more than $3.2 million,” said Willie.

FInal decisions on capital projects or the firehall won’t be made Oct. 1, but when Willie was asked to give an example of what project could possibly wait in lieu of the firehall financing, he said:

“I don’t think anything has to go by the wayside.”

Willie said there’s much research to be done regarding matching funds from other levels of government and other sources of revenue for all projects, but when pressed for an example of what could possibly wait in lieu of firehall financing, Willie did float one idea, a multi-phase project that will cost the town $5.8 million.

“Maybe we won’t be rebuilding Memorial Avenue and making it pretty at this point.”

Mayor Teunis Westbroek said Thursday the firehall project needs to move at a prudent pace that includes seeking all possible grants.

“There’s no immediate panic to replace the hall,” said the mayor. “It’s a political decision – politicians like to cut ribbons. But let’s do an orderly transition and plan.”

“The place isn’t falling down.”

 

Westbroek said he has confidence in this council’s abilities to watch the town’s bottom line. “I think this council is very prudent when it comes to finances,” he said. “This is the council to make these decisions.”