North Cowichan council will undertake an Alternative Approval Process for its Crofton Fire Hall replacement project.
After working on the project for several months, council made the final decision in a 15-minute special council meeting on July 5.
The Alternative Approval Process, also known as a counter-petition process, is used to gain consent (or not) without the cost of going to a referendum. It requires those who are not in favour to act, and those who support the project to do nothing.
Eligible North Cowichan electors have between July 22 and Aug. 22 to let the municipality know they do not support a $4.8 million loan to fund a new fire hall in Crofton.
If 10 per cent of the eligible electorate register their dissent on time, the issue would be included in the 2022 general election ballot in October.
The reason it’s going to the AAP, said Michelle Martineau, North Cowichan’s manager of legislative services, is to get the construction ball rolling in the fall, rather than having to wait until the spring.
North Cowichan’s fire department includes four halls with 113 members. It’s the province’s largest paid on-call department.
The existing hall was built in 1964 though a second-floor addition has been added since then, and the truck bays were installed in 2002.
Much like the Cowichan Bay Fire Hall, recent assessments (one in 2018, and two in 2019), have shown the hall needs seismic upgrades, and “urgent repairs”.
“Given the cost of these repairs, it is recommended the fire hall be demolished and rebuilt in its current location,” read an information bulletin accessed at www.connectnorthcowichan.ca/crofton-fire-hall
“The second floor was closed to all use in 2019 following the load rating study as it was deemed unsafe. Replacing second floor joists could address the load bearing issues, however seismic issues would still need to be addressed.”
While the existing hall is 7,200 square feet, the new hall would take up approximately 3,600 square feet and would include training and administration space in addition to dedicated storage for all of the department’s gear and electronics.
“The building that holds the truck bays will remain but the multi-storey existing structure that holds the administration, storage and other space will be demolished and replaced on the same footprint with a building that, effectively, is a storey and a half.
“We did a space analysis and determined that 3,600 square feet was sufficient for our needs at this time,” said Shawn Cator, director of operations for the municipality.
According to the information bulletin, “the total cumulative cost to the average homeowner over the duration of the loan will be about $340 ($17 per year).”
According to B.C. Assessment, the assessed value of an average single-family home in North Cowichan has risen 37 per cent over the last year to $668,000.