We live in distracting times.
When it comes to the referendum asking Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District ratepayers to approve borrowing $9.7 million to build a new fire hall, it is easy to be distracted by late-blooming questions, laymen’s alternatives and allegations being thrown into the ring.
It is also easy to trash any idea, plan or person. But what is needed to make any good decision in the public interest is to open one’s mind, take the time to get reliable information and trust that it is being provided by people who know more than we do, and that they have good intentions. If you, a friend or family member have an alternate idea about what could work better or cost less money, it has likely already been considered and rejected for valid reasons.
Since the 2013 hall referendum defeat, many different fire trustees and staff, architects and professional consultants have done their best to get us to the point we are at today. Accumulating some reserve funds is prudent for any local government with taxing authority. Surveying people on building options and tolerance for tax increases — and going for a zero increase — was also smart.
Securing of the old hall site as public space for $1 by the CRD and allowing Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue to remain there rent-free until the new hall is ready is also a good idea. What eventually happens on that property will require public input and approval through a CRD referendum if funds must be borrowed to do anything. We are not voting on future use of that space at this time.
Something else to stress is that getting a new fire hall is not about improving the chances your house will be “saved” if it catches fire. Honestly, it’s not about you as an individual. The referendum is about having a safe and healthy, well-located emergency services building with the amenities needed for firefighters and staff to do their jobs as best they can.
No one is trying to pull one over on you. Defensive emotions are not required. What is needed is an open mind, logic, practical considerations and trust. This is not the time to take our eye off the ball, abandoning the years of effort that have got us to the point of having a good, solid, affordable proposal to vote on.
We encourage you to support your community and its fire department by voting “yes” in the fire hall referendum and ensuring your ballot is received by mail or in person at the Ganges fire hall by June 30.