Public safety is rising before the citizens of View Royal.
Ten months after the first shovel hit the ground on the new 20,000 square-foot facility that will house the fire department, building inspections, bylaw enforcement and other emergency services, the public safety building is almost ready.
Fire Chief Paul Hurst hopes to see the grand opening by early October.
“It has been a long time coming,” he said. “Two chiefs before me started the process 21 years ago. We’ve been looking at blueprints for two years and (we’ll be) excited to finally see it open. I think the residents of View Royal will be pretty proud when we open the doors.”
While many of the walls aren’t in yet and occupancy is months away, Hurst can envision the five specific areas planned for the building. Mechanical and services will be housed on the east side, a huge apparatus bay in the middle will be home to the fire trucks, the two-level administration wing and volunteer space, while the emergency operations centre and classrooms will be situated in the west wing.
The new facility was approved by View Royal residents in a 2012 referendum after voters rejected a plan that would have seen the municipality borrow up to $8 million rather than about $5.5 million. The building will be completed for roughly $10 million – $2.3 million for the land and $7.49 million for the building. It replaces the aging 9,800-square-foot building a little less than a kilometre south on Old Island Highway.
“The biggest issue was the seismic quality. The old hall is full of asbestos and mould,” Hurst said.
“It’s served its time and we were running out of space. I think the important thing for the community to realize is now in the event of a disaster … your fire department is actually going to be able to respond. Before, that building was going to come down (in an earthquake) and you had no response capability. People were literally going to be on their own.”
Equipment is slowly being transferred into the new facility and Hurst said the transition will be quick once the 65 firefighters and staff finally move in.
“When we are ready to turn the key, we unplug the phones, lock the door and come down the street. We move the trucks over, plug it in and we are open for business. It will be a quick transition – we can’t be down for a minute.”
The site of the current fire hall, built in 1957 for $16,000, has already been rezoned for mixed uses. Council’s intent is to see it sold to help recoup some of the cost of the new facility, Coun. Heidi Rast said.
“We are on budget, but we are a bit behind schedule,” she said.
“I am really excited about it. It’s a building residents should be proud of and take ownership of. We have an open house every year inviting the entire community over, and I am hoping, fingers crossed, it will be ready for the event. That would be a great way to smash the champagne over the building, so to speak. A great grand opening.”
Hurst said the new building will welcome generations of firefighters – most of whom are volunteers and residents of the town – for decades to come.
“View Royal is a great place to live and this fits with the strategic vision of the town. A safe community, a safe place to live, with the ability for us to look after the community,” he said.
“We have great equipment, we have great staff. Now we will have a facility that houses all that. If we have a problem we can put that equipment and training to work.”