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Fire-hall foes admit figures in error

Jul 10 2012

Determined residents in View Royal say they unknowingly used misleading information to stop the municipality from borrowing $8 million to build a new fire hall.

Town council members want the loan to pay for a new protective-services facility that would include a training centre, administration space and a fire hall.

But a group of about 20 residents criticized the need to borrow that much money and in two weeks collected 926 petitions to stop its authorization.

Most councillors say they now support going to a referendum, which could cost $25,000, but they question information provided by the group of residents in a two-page handout that miscalculated the amount taxes would increase to pay off the loan.

"Yes, a statement included in our initial information sheet could have been misinterpreted, and for that we apologize," said Kim Saladana, one of the people collecting the documents.

Council used a process that would authorize the loan unless 10 per cent of registered voters - 770 people - filed forms opposing it by July 11.

A two-page handout distributed during the first week of the group's campaign said property taxes would increase by 12 per cent a year over the duration of a 20-year loan.

View Royal council bought ads in local publications to clarify details. There would be a one-time increase of 12 per cent said Coun. David Screech. Property taxes would remain at that level until the loan was paid off.

The increase would only apply to the municipal portion of property taxes and would add between $119 and $137 to the bill for an average home valued at about $500,000, according to the municipality.

Screech suggested the group had illegally misled people with the wrong numbers. "You must not knowingly distribute the [petition] form and, at the same time, provide incorrect information," he said.

The group removed the numbers from the handout once the information was brought to its attention. At that point, more than 300 signatures had been collected.

Screech and Coun. Heidi Rast said they were disappointed in the results of the alternate approval process, considering how much the issue was discussed during the election. However, they said they would not challenge the petition.

"If they are successful, we will very quickly go to a referendum," Screech said.

"I still think the silent majority support the fire hall. It's just a very vocal few who have taken charge of the process with misinformation."

Saladana and her group say they are not opposed to a new fire hall but want to see more details about all the options considered.

Council will discuss going to a referendum at its July 12 council meeting.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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