Without a community-dividing referendum or a major tax increase, Qualicum Beach is going to get a new fire hall built to post-disaster standards.
This kind of relatively-painless approval process is certainly not a given. And it isn’t a fluke, either.
Parksville has gone through failed referenda. Other Island communities, too.
However, in about 18 months, up on Rupert Road near the roundabout, Qualicum Beach will have a civic building to be proud of, one that will serve the community for an estimated 50 years.
And when (can we say ‘if’ these days?) the big quake hits, this new fire hall will be one of the few buildings in Parksville Qualicum Beach likely to be safe.
There remain detractors, but the town is in such an enviable financial position, it’s difficult to argue the timing.
Mayor Teunis Westbroek says he has always been in favour of a new hall, and councils he led previous to this one did set in motion the putting aside of tax dollars for the project. But things move very slowly in Qualicum Beach and the project needed to be kicked to the front burner, which it was in the last year by Coun. Dave Willie and others.
The price tag of roughly $5.5 million is a moving target, but it’s all in. Sure, the new fire hall in Nanoose Bay was said to cost $3.2 million, but that was a bit deceiving in terms of architect fees, site servicing and other costs that were not included in that price or did not have to be done because the building was going right where the old hall stood.
It’s probable the Qualicum Beach project will receive grant monies, which will push the price tag lower, which will mean some other capital projects (read roadwork) will not be pushed aside.
And it’s important to take into account the site of the current fire hall and it’s value to the community. It’s a valuable piece of land right in the village and should bring revenue to the town if it is sold, or quality-of-life value to taxpayers if the town retains it. At the very least, some logic will come to the strange network of roadways in that part of the village.
We tip our hats to the political leadership and staff of Qualicum Beach for having the both the foresight and the gumption to make good use of tax dollars.
— Editorial by John Harding