The Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District (SSIFPD) announced Tuesday that an agreement has been signed with the Capital Regional District (CRD) to transfer ownership of the Ganges fire hall as part of the plan to build a new fire hall on the north side of town.
In a press release, SSIFPD board chair Rollie Cook said, “This is a win-win for our department and the community. The fire department gets to remain in the building during the construction period, rent free, and the building in the centre of Ganges will still operate as a public asset, which a committee of stakeholders suggested during consultations in 2021, including the Chamber of Commerce, Farmers’ Institute, the CRD, Islands Trust and the Ag Alliance.”
Salt Spring Fire Chief Jamie Holmes pointed out that “we also get a guarantee of retaining a 30,000-gallon water storage tank for fighting fires in the downtown core. It makes good sense operationally and will help reduce insurance rates for both residents and businesses.”
The #1 million gas tax contribution for the fire hall project recently announced by the CRD, along with continued use of the Ganges hall for four years until completion of the new hall, plus availability of the old site for firefighting water storage, will help the fire district to advance the project and achieve important community goals, the district stated.
The new fire hall is estimated to cost $13.7 million to build. Escalation costs of eight per cent, five per cent and five per cent are built into that total cost over the next three years, along with a sizeable 20 per cent contingency fund to deal with possible cost increases.
“Due to the prudent build-up of capital reserves by SSFPID and the recently announced CRD gas tax contribution, borrowing of only $9.7 million is required,” said Cook. “At a guaranteed Provincial rate, borrowing costs can be covered without a tax increase.”
A referendum on the proposal is being held by mail-in ballot in June.
During consultations that SSIFPD initiated, several organizations on Salt Spring recommended the old fire hall be redeployed as a public asset, potentially as a venue for a year-round public market to strengthen food security and enhance tourism opportunities.
Anne Macey, a spokesperson for the Agricultural Alliance on Salt Spring, said, “The members of Salt Spring’s farming and food sector support keeping the old fire hall as a community asset and we look forward to discussing the establishment of a year-round market in that central hub.”