A delegation of Saltair voters presented the Electoral Area Services Committee of the Cowichan Valley Regional District with a petition last Wednesday signed by 628 Saltair residents.
The petition asks for a referendum to establish whether the community does or does not support spending Saltair tax and grant money on the Saltair Community Centre, the former Mount Brenton Elementary School.
The total signatures represent about half of all the voters in Saltair. CVRD Area G Director Mel Dorey also signed the petition.
When the petition was presented, the delegation pointed out only 541 Saltair residents voted in the 2014 election and invited questions. None of the directors at the meeting asked a question.
Area D Director Lori Iannidinardo did ask questions, but directed them to the EASC Chair. Iannidinardo asked about the CVRD process for dealing with a petition with this substantial number of signatures.
She expressed concerns about ensuring a fair process and whether the community was being treated fairly. The response from the CVRD CAO Brian Carruthers indicated CVRD staff would take the petition into consideration.
In effect, the petition asks the CVRD to give the whole community a voice. The building was purchased as part of the Mount Brenton Elementary School property without a referendum, business plan, needs assessment or building condition assessment.
It took three years for the expert building condition assessment that cost $16,000. The McCuaig and Associates Engineering condition assessment report provides a phased approach for major maintenance and updating requirements over 10 years. It says $750,000 would need to be spent this year, $1.6 million by the end of 2021 and $3.1 million by the end of 2026.
Many residents told the petitioners water was their priority. They did not want to spend $3 million-plus on the building while facing the hurdle of finding or providing money for Saltair Water System distribution and water-filtration upgrades.