Fire hall referendum wraps up on June 30

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The referendum on building a new fire hall wraps up Thursday with close to 3,000 votes already received.  

Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District’s (SSIFPD) new chief administrative officer Rodney Dieleman said that as of the end of last week, 2,744 ballots had been received through Canada Post. Another 150 to 200 had been dropped off in a secure box positioned just inside the door at the Ganges fire hall.

Regardless of the referendum outcome, SSIFPD board chair Rollie Cook said at a June 20 board meeting that the response so far made it on track to be a “good democratic process.” The referendum, which closes June 30, asks whether Salt Spring property owners approve of the fire district borrowing $9.7-million to build a new fire hall on donated land.

Three political leaders have publicly voiced their support for a yes vote on the referendum, including the Capital Regional District (CRD) Salt Spring electoral area director Gary Holman, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands Adam Olsen and, just last week, Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May. 

Voters who have not yet cast their ballots have until June 30 to do so. Ballots must be received at the Ganges fire hall on this date, before 4 p.m. As well as the option to mail in ballots, a secure ballot box is positioned at the hall where they can be dropped off. If voters did not receive a ballot, they can pick one up from Monday to Thursday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Ganges fire hall. Ballot packages need to be filled in correctly to be counted, which includes the name and signature of a witness on the certification envelope “B.” 

Deputy returning officer Alistair Sim said results will hopefully be available sometime on Saturday, July 2, but possibly not until Sunday. People can check the Driftwood website at gulfislandsdriftwood.com or our Gulf Islands Driftwood Facebook page for the outcome. 

At a portion of the June 20 meeting closed to the public, the fire board received a final business case for the new fire hall prepared by consultants from Capex Project Advisory. 

“That’s the full analysis and feasibility study of the new hall,” Dieleman said. 

The document is not public yet, he said, as it “discloses our budgets, our risks, our methods, our strategies for putting the building up.”

“I think anybody who reads it would take advantage of us by knowing our contingencies and budgets. So we’ll have to hold that document pretty close to the vest until after tendering and all the contracts are awarded,” he explained. 

In other news, Dieleman said the fire department will be recruiting volunteers for the district’s communications and marketing, finance and audit, and strategic planning committees. Interested individuals can find a fillable PDF application at saltspringfire.com/seeking-committee-public-member-volunteers/.

In his monthly report for May, fire chief Jamie Holmes noted the increase in hydro calls due to the May 18 spring wind event. Most of the time, windstorms happen in the winter when foliage is lighter and wind can go through them easier. This time around, there were “a lot of trees on power lines, live lines down and different trouble areas around the island,” he said. 

Compared with April’s four hydro calls, May saw 26. 

Holmes reported that a pandemic-related economic recovery grant that allowed firefighters to complete residential assessments for FireSmart, assessing whether homes are protected and prepared for wildfires, is coming to an end. A total of 288 assessments were done and 61 rebates valued at $250 each were issued to residents during the grant period. Over 1,200 members of the public were communicated with in the program. Another grant has been received, which will allow the department to continue to give vouchers to homeowners who do FireSmart assessments and work on their properties, as well as to expand who can receive the funds from mainly seniors to now any member of the public.

Assistant chief Dale Lundy was also recognized for his 30 years with the fire department. 

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