In an occasionally heated and prolonged episode, View Royal residents had two chances this year to give their opinion on the town’s proposed borrowing of money to build a new fire hall.
Faced with a seismically unsound and outdated building, the town and View Royal Fire Rescue wanted a new fire hall and public safety building. The land for the new fire hall was purchased in 2011 after the loan for it was approved by residents in a referendum in December 2010.
In July, 1,300 residents submitted responses in an Alternative Approval Process overturning the town’s proposal to borrow $7.9 for the hall itself and forcing the need for a referendum. Mayor Graham Hill would later comment that going to an AAP was a mistake.
There were some grey clouds to the process including accusations from both sides of the debate of the other spreading misinformation. Even within council there were a number of disagreements.
After the AAP the town reduced the amount of the proposed loan to $5.49 million by shaving $500,000 off the cost of the building, borrowing $1 million internally and pledging to use $1 million from other sources, such as casino funds or money from developers.
The Gazette recieved so many letters regarding the fire hall debate that sparked so many disagreements, the paper decided to stop printing them leading up to the referendum.
In November residents were asked to go to the polls to give their opinion on the new loan. By the end of the general voting day Nov. 24 the unofficial numbers were in: 1,677 residents supported the loan and 924 did not.
“It’s an affirmation of the council’s position,” said Hill of the results. “It is a ringing endorsement of the volunteers and the departments and the management there.”
Council went on to pass final reading of the loan to move the fire hall project ahead.