Qualicum Beach is one motion away from construction of a new fire hall beginning in 2013.
Town council passed third reading of its financial plan bylaw on Monday night, a plan that included up to $4 million for the new facility. The bylaw could be adopted as soon as the next regular council meeting on Nov. 5.
The plan would not include any additional tax increases, but would shuffle other capital projects, notably road work, to the back burner in lieu of fire hall construction.
During the Monday night meeting and in interviews with The NEWS in the days following, Mayor Teunis Westbroek urged council to wait for possible grant money from senior levels of government before committing to the project for the 2013 budget year.
“To rush into it is unnecessary,” said Westbroek. “I would not want to give up on the opportunity for grants. I would prefer if the construction starting date was 2014.”
“I’m not in panic mode,” said the mayor. “The (current) fire hall isn’t going to fall down.”
An existing federal government grant program aimed to help municipalities with infrastructure does not include fire halls on its list of eligible projects. The Building Canada Fund was established in 2007 and was designed to fund projects from 2007-2014. Westbroek said he believes a program set to replace that fund will include fire halls as eligible projects.
The mayor said he expects details of this new federal government grant program to be revealed at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in the fall of 2013. It’s unclear when municipalities could apply for infrastructure grants from the new fund or when that money would be granted.
Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer said he was in favour of proceeding to send a clear message to the community and senior governments that Qualicum Beach has its ducks in a row on this project.
“If we go hat in hand without any plans or without it in our budget I would suggest we would be going home with empty pockets,” said Luchtmeijer.
Coun. Scott Tanner said he can’t envision the fire hall, especially in the years to come in regards to equipment replacement, not causing a tax increase.
“I think that’s a false economy,” Tanner said of staff’s financial plan. “Realistically, I think sooner rather than later we will be looking at a tax increase.”
Coun. Mary Brouilette responded quickly to Tanner’s tax suggestion.
“I don’t see why we need to put out a fear of additional tax because of the fire hall,” said Brouilette.
Coun. Dave Willie supports the build-now option.
“Grants are not available in most cases until projects are ready to go,” he said. “I think it’s time to move ahead.”