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Town to hold referendum on proposed $6M new fire hall
Local residents will decide through a public referendum tentatively set for next spring if the Town of Osoyoos should build a new fire hall.
After months of discussions and the formation of a detailed building plan, Town of Osoyoos council announced Monday that the final decision on whether or not to proceed with the construction of a new fire hall – at an estimated cost of $5.65 million – will be left up to local residents through a public referendum.
No date has been set for the referendum, but Mayor Stu Wells said the general consensus among members of council is that it should not be held until many residents who leave town for the winter are able to return next spring, with the likely date some time in April or May.
A study commissioned back in 2007 clearly indicated the current main fire hall, located beside town hall offices on Main Street, didn’t meet the need of residents or this community, said Chief Administrative Officer Barry Romanko, during a presentation to council on Monday.
Council voted to prepare a detailed report on the possibility of constructing a new, modern fire hall and KMBR Architects Planners from Vancouver has completed that report, which has been discussed during several in-camera meetings.
Council voted Monday to release information to the public about plans to hold a referendum on building a new fire hall in the spring.
Highlights of the KMBR report include key details, including:
- The size of the fire hall would be more than 13,000 square feet and another 1,800 square feet for the mezzanine area.
- The building would include four drive-through bays for fire trucks, construction of a hose tower, equipment shop and kitchen.
- Moving the current emergency operations centre from the Sonora Community Centre to the new fire hall.
- Expansion of the parking lot as the building would have space to hold community events.
- The building would be constructed to meet post-seismic design standards.
The town “hasn’t worked out” potential borrowing costs to pay for this project and still has to assess its partners, which include the Osoyoos Indian Band and Osoyoos Rural Fire Protection organization, would contribute to the costs if this project does proceed following a referendum, said Romanko.
Wells said this is too big and important a project to proceed with without local residents making the final decision on whether or not to proceed.
A “full on referendum” is the only option available to let local residents determine if this project should proceed or not, said Wells.
Coun. C. J. Rhodes said the current council remains committed to open and transparent operation of municipal government and while certain key issues had to be discussed in-camera, he’s pleased members of the public now know several months in advance they will have the final say on whether or not this project proceeds or not.
“We often build large projects like this and we don’t ask the public … that won’t happen here,” he said. “A fire hall is something no one thinks a lot about until their house is on fire and suddenly these people are the most important people in the world.
“I’m really happy this information is coming out to the public.”
The town plans on holding several open house information sessions about building a new fire hall over the next several months in advance of the referendum.
While most residents would agree the town needs a new fire hall, the reality is this project is going to cost close to $6 million and local citizens deserve to have the final say as part of the democratic process on such an important issue, said Rhodes.
“I’m kind of excited about it (referendum) … we know money will be a huge issue,” he said.