Viewpoint: Public invited to fire budget meeting

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By STAN SHAPIRO

As it has done for the last number of years, the Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District board will again present its proposed 2021 taxpayer requisition to the community.

It will be done at a budget town hall being held “COVID style” on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Farmers’ Institute. Particular attention will be called to the reasons behind the proposed increase in the budget. Interested Islanders will then be provided with the opportunity to comment on the budget. This type of community feedback has in past years resulted in a number of significant changes being made in the draft budget before it was finalized.

A number of “cost of living” increases are reflected in the proposed $4-million budget. However, the major difference between the current budget and next year’s is a $250,000 allocation for repairs to the Ganges Fire Hall. Although that hall will, subject to taxpayer approval, be replaced in the not-too-distant future, some repairs cannot wait. WorkPlaceBC has ruled that the current building has for too long been an unsafe environment requiring immediate corrective action.

Also, a widely representative community committee has recently recommended that, once the fire hall moves, the vacated building should be repurposed for community use.

The fire board would be happy to see this happen as long as it receives fair market value for the property. The amount received would then be used to reduce the cost to taxpayers for the new building. 

The draft 2021 budget will be available as of Sept. 24 for public review on the fire board website (www.saltspringfire.com).

The Oct. 4 open house is being held as a face-masked event at the Farmers’ Institute in the main hall, a location that allows for social distancing.

Due to COVID-19 limitations, those attending should preregister by Thursday, Oct. 1, either by email, admin@saltspringfire.com, or by calling 250-537-2531. Attendees will be asked to provide their contact information and sign in at the door. 

The open house will also be offered by Zoom with the link posted on the fire board’s website (www.saltspringfire.com) the week of Sept 28. Zoom attendees should email their questions to admin@saltspringfire.com by Thursday, Oct. 1, so they can be answered at the open house, Should you need any additional information, please contact the fire department office at 250-537-2531.

The writer is a member of the Salt Spring fire board’s communications committee.

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