Staff from the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) feel positive after taking part in an open house in Kersley last week to explain the Alternate Approval Process being proposed to borrow money to buy a new fire engine.
Like several other volunteer fire departments in the CRD, Kersley needs a new fire engine, and the regional district is proposing extending the borrowing period from five years to 10 years to pay for it. This change requires elector approval, and the AAP is one way to achieve that approval.
“Really, the AAP is about borrowing for a longer period of time,” explained Stephanie Masun, the CRD’s manager of protective services. “We currently have a five-year borrowing model, and moving to a 10-year borrowing model requires we achieve public approval.”
She says if the AAP were to fail, the CRD would go to a referendum, and if the referendum failed, they would go to a five-year borrowing plan.
“If we did five years, there would be tax increases due to the replacement of the apparatus,” explained Masun. “If we do 10 years, there will be tax increases, but not directly related to the apparatus. Our choice to try the AAP first is we are not introducing a new service. The cost of an AAP is traditionally less than a referendum. We thought we would try and see what the public feedback would be.”
CRD staff was at the open house to hand out information about the AAP, and they had copies of the bylaw and the Electoral Response Form on hand.
Kathy Ferguson, a volunteer firefighter in Williams Lake who is in the new role of regional fire services supervisor for the CRD, says the new fire engine is needed to keep the Kersley Volunteer Fire Department certified.
“Basically, it comes down to, to keep the Kersley Volunteer Fire Department certified under the Fire Underwriters Survey, the department needs to have apparatus within these specifications,” she said.
The fire engines must be within a certain year, she explained.
The Kersley department needs to purchase one fire engine this year. The new engine will cost approximately $400,000, and the fire department has $150,000 available in capital reserves to contribute towards the purchase. If adopted, the new bylaw authorizes the CRD to borrow up to $400,000 over 10 years; however, the regional district will only need to borrow $250,000 to purchase the truck for the Kersley Volunteer Fire Department.
“I think the reaction seems to be very positive for us to move forward,” said Ferguson. “It’s very community-minded, and everybody knows everybody. [The fire department has] always been very fiscally responsible. I’m pretty sure everybody trusts what’s going on, and they definitely appreciate the services and the department.”
Masun says the CRD’s presentation was well-received, and one question that came up during the open house is what happens if the CRD sells the old fire truck. She assured residents that the money goes directly back to the fire protection budget for Kersley.
“There is a procurement process around the off-siting of old apparatus, and any money received for selling that apparatus would return to this service,” she said.
Masun said the CRD has a 15-year supply agreement with Fort Garry Fire Trucks in Winnipeg, so each of the new fire engines would come from Winnipeg.
“We are hoping the community feels comfortable in contacting us if they have any other questions about it or about the fire protection services,” said Ferguson. “The main thing is they need to replace the apparatus, so the regional district is coming to the community to see how they want to do this. This is the easiest way. It is enabling us to move forward without the huge cost of a referendum.”
An AAP is a “reverse” form of public assent, where the proposed change will go ahead unless at least 10 per cent of the eligible voters submit a signed Elector Response Form saying they are against the proposal. This means the CRD will purchase the trucks through 10-year financing unless 10 per cent of the residents in the specific fire protection areas object. At that point, the proposal would go to a full referendum.
With the AAP, qualified electors in the Kersley Fire Protection Area who are fine with the CRD purchasing a fire truck with 10-year financing do not need to do anything.
Qualified electors who are opposed to the idea need to sign and submit an official Elector Response Form by April 16 at 4 p.m. Only the official forms, or an accurate copy, will be accepted.
For more information, visit cardboard.ca/firedepartments.
Electoral Response Forms are available from the CRD offices or can be downloaded at cariboord.ca/firedepartments.