More than 80 people attended the April 10 public meeting at the South Green Lake Fire Hall to hear about and discuss the proposed Fire Protection Service at South Green Lake.
At the end of the two-plus-hour meeting, a straw vote was taken to give the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) board of directors an idea of the support for starting the process of establishing a fire protection service.
The vote was based on the assumption it would be a referendum and the new parcel tax would be in the range of $75, TNRD chief administrative officer Sukh Gill explained.
The balance of the money would be raised by an assessment tax based on improvements only (not land values), he added.
The parcel tax and assessment tax would provide the South Green Lake Volunteer Fire Department (SGLVFD) an annual operating cost budget of $150,000.
It would also be a bylaw maximum and not necessarily what would be taxed in the first year.
Furthermore, if there was unspent money it would stay with local fire service for future costs.
All 71 property owners present voted in favour of going forward with the development of a TNRD fire service for South Green Lake.
Why the change?
SLGVFD fire chief Peter McKie explained training, gear and organizational requirements to ensure compliance to the Office of the Fire Commissioner’s introduction of the Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook in 2014 greatly impacted small volunteer fire departments.
Furthermore, WorkSafeBC rules and regulations required occupational safety and health programs, operating procedures, dry hydrants, etc., added to operational costs.
Two years ago, consultation for clarity with the TNRD and other fire departments revealed SGLVFD couldn’t enter private property to fight fires without a local government (TNRD) bylaw.
The local fire department asked the TNRD to pass a bylaw, but after seeking legal advice turned down the request.
This meant the potential liability of fighting fire on private property rested squarely on the shoulders of the SGLVFD Society board of directors and the firefighters.
Noting the TNRD voted that due to the liability issue, it wouldn’t be funding society-run volunteer fire departments after 2022, McKie said the move to become a TNRD fire department will improve the fire service and ensure the safety of the firefighters.
“If we don’t vote to become a TNRD-managed fire hall, it could result in the fire hall shutting down and there would be no fire protection for the community.”
There were several questions regarding the differences between how the fire department would be operated now and when the TNRD assumes control, items in the operating budget, and on how much it would actually cost property owners.
These questions were mostly answered by TNRD CAO Sukh Gill, but the sticking point was the extra costs for property owners.
While he tried to answer the question several times, it was SGLVFD Society president Cheryl Groves who provided the crystal clear consequences of not having a fire service at South Green Lake.
Groves told the crowd she checked with her insurance provider prior to the meeting and confirmed her home insurance was $948 a year.
Without a fire service, the society president said she was told her home insurance would be $2,188 a year.