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Courtenay council reconsidering new fire hall

Courtenay council will step back and have a closer look at the East Courtenay Fire Hall/Training Centre project before moving it further forward.

In June, council approved a staff recommendation to move forward with design and construction of the fire hall and training centre at 220 Waters Pl., in a lot to the north of Home Depot behind the BC Hydro substation. Land clearing work was expected to begin next year, with the training centre complete in 2014 and the fire hall complete in 2015.

However, at Monday's council meeting, Courtenay director of financial services and deputy CAO Tillie Manthey suggested the project should be looked at more closely and council should be more involved in the plans, after comments from the public.

"It does appear from comments in the public, commentary and feedback through the newspaper and neighbouring communities, that we do need to take a look at that project in detail," said Manthey. "We feel that it's probably a direction to go to establish a select committee of council and give council that opportunity to fully discuss that project with staff and do some additional research if required, and then move on from there with recommendations to council."

Courtenay CAO Sandy Gray added council had a similar committee when looking at the new RCMP building project in Courtenay, which has not been built yet.

He also noted the new fire hall was previously slated for a lot on Idiens Way off Lerwick Road years ago, before the plan changed to have the fire hall built on Waters Place instead. He pointed out Lerwick Road did not connect to Guthrie Road in Comox at that time, and the committee would enable councillors to take a good look at whether the Waters Place site is the best location.

"It's just a matter of stepping back and saying have you got the right general location," said Gray. "We certainly know that there's a growing need for (a new fire hall) and as we go forward — how do you service that area and how do you service the northern end of the community?

"And so part of the question is to take an objective look at that site we've looked at and see if it's got the best ability to serve the needs of the community, both the residential as well as the commercial, and in the near future, the institution of the new hospital."

Manthey said council can take as much time as it needs to look into the project, but "one of the drivers" is a hope to have the project complete around the same time the new Comox Valley Hospital is finished, which slated to open by 2017.

Courtenay's strategic plan has an objective to "create a combined emergency services building in East Courtenay for fire department, ambulance, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue (CVGSAR) and Comox Valley Emergency Plan."

However, Gray noted the ambulance service dropped out some time ago, as there would be ambulance service at the new hospital.

Manthey noted the CVGSAR would not be included in the project either.

"That was not a surprise. We have had a lot of conversations with search and rescue and they have really specific needs and affordability questions," she said. "They were included in the proposed project — as a proposal."

The project, as presented in June, was estimated to cost $9.6 million — including space for CVGSAR — and the report noted the City would have to borrow substantially.

On Monday, Mayor Larry Jangula stressed the City would hold a referendum before "spending that kind of money."

Jangula also mentioned some people have been talking about amalgamated fire service with Comox, and while the idea may not be popular with everyone, it should be discussed by the committee.

Couns. Bill Anglin, Manno Theos and Jon Ambler were appointed to the committee, and they must choose one of themselves as the alternate.

Courtenay fire chief Don Bardonnex and Manthey will also be on the committee.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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