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Oct 25 2012

View Royal residents will vote Nov. 24 whether to approve borrowing for a new public safety building.

The referendum to borrow $5.49-million for the fire hall replacement comes after about 1,300 of View Royal's eligible voters - about twice the number required - filed petitions this summer through an alternative approval process to block the municipality from borrowing up to $8 million for the project.

Mayor Graham Hill said, in hindsight, the municipality probably should have gone directly to referendum.

But the defeat of the initial proposal prompted the municipality to take a second look at costs.

It reduced estimated borrowing requirements by about $2.5 million through a combination of modifying plans and alternative funding sources, such as casino revenue and amenity money from new developments.

"This does not mean that the building will be substandard," Hill said.

"You can't short-change building a contemporary fire/rescue building, what we're calling a public safety building. The technical design is consistent with what is done elsewhere and it's a post-disaster building that is targeting being around for 35, 50 or many more years," he said.

Kim Saladana, who was part of the group that lobbied to block the original loan, said it's important to note the cost of the project has not been reduced by $2.5 million.

"People are concerned that folks are going to walk away with the impression that it's $5.4 million. That's the loan," Saladana said.

The project costs, she said, haven't changed much.

"They're $7.49 million and the town is hoping to shave off half a million dollars in costs," she said.

"They can't actually guarantee that - and they've been very honest about that - until they actually go to tender."

Saladana said she is hoping for a communications campaign that is straightforward and clear, allowing voters to make an informed choice.

"Then if people say 'yes,' fabulous. If people say 'no,' I hope they have a good alternative for our fire department," she said.

The new protective services building would include a replacement fire hall, training centre and administration space.

The current fire station, at 280 Island Highway, was constructed in 1957 and saw additions in 1975 and 1987.

According to the town's website, two engineering reports done in the 1990s concluded that the building would not withstand even a moderate seismic event, and that upgrading the building would be cost prohibitive.

If approved, the 20-year borrowing would mean an increase of 6.7 per cent in municipal property taxes to the average residential property (assessed at $558,459), which translates to about $85 a year or $7 a month.

The cost for an average commercial property is estimated to be $648 a year.

Using casino revenues, in 2010 the town bought a 2.38-acre parcel of land for the new building at 329/337 Island Highway.

WHERE TO VOTE

There will be two polling stations for the referendum:

? View Royal Elementary School, 218 Helmcken Rd.

? Eagle View Elementary School, 97 Talcott Rd.

There will be two advance polls at View Royal Town Hall, 45 View Royal Ave.:

? Nov. 14, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

? Nov. 21, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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