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Debate over View Royal fire hall loan heats up
View Royal residents leading the charge against the town’s borrowing of $8 million for a new fire hall say they have received enough forms to overturn the Alternative Approval Process (AAP).
Residents had until today, July 11, to get forms into town hall rejecting the loan. The final number received is not yet known. If more than 700 residents sign the forms, View Royal town council will have to either take the issue to referendum or revise their plan.
Kimberlee Saladana describes herself as the “quarterback” of the ad hoc group of residents hoping to raise awareness about the AAP. Through pamphlets and community networking, the group has been encouraging residents to fill out the forms stating that they do not approve the town’s proposed loan.
“That group has just grown. People are coming out of the woodwork,” Saladana said. “I have perfect strangers coming around to my door dropping off forms.”
While the group has admitted their initial information pamphlets did contain some inaccuracies, as pointed out by Coun. David Screech in the June 29 edition of the Gazette, the general points of opposition remain the same.
Their main concerns are that residents have not been kept informed, that $8 million seems high for a community of View Royal’s size, that the AAP is undemocratic and that no other options have been brought forward.
“People just don’t seem to have an appetite for an $8 million loan,” Saladana said. “There’s only 3,500 taxpayers. Either way you cut it, we’re on the hook.”
Coun. Heidi Rast, chair of protective services, said she thinks the group is going about opposing the loan the wrong way.
She said that some residents have been waiting outside of town hall to talk to people coming in to pay their property taxes. She has also heard complaints from people saying they have been “aggressively hassled.”
“I just find that so inappropriate,” Rast said. “I’m disappointed with that kind of tactic.”
Rast said she will be disappointed if this group forces a referendum, because all of the councillors campaigned on the promise to build a new fire hall and, as far as she is concerned, the process to do so has been open and honest throughout.
“Their argument about being non-democratic is just a bunch of crap as far as I’m concerned,” Rast said. “This is a legal process that we’re allowed to do as a municipality, so I don’t buy that argument.”
And while Saladana thinks otherwise, she’s also clear that she believes town staff are just doing their jobs. She also said View Royal’s volunteer firefighters certainly deserve a workplace that is safe and comfortable. However, she questions whether this is the right option and why council seems intent on putting it through with what she sees as minimal public engagement.
“I do get why government would choose to go with the AAP. Having said that, I think that people view it as sneaky business and it gets people a little riled up,” Saladana said. “Perhaps, with a really solid education campaign, they could have just gone directly to referendum and gotten people to rally behind them.”