Metchosin reached into full pockets, to fill in an empty one.
Recognizing the need to build a new fire hall in the next five to 10 years, Metchosin has climbed into its Fire Equipment Replacement Reserve and their Snow and Storm Operations Reserve to provide a $200,000 injection into its Building Replacement Reserve. The funds are earmarked for a new hall to replace the aging facility built for $350,000 in 1960.
“(We have) identified all our requirements for the next 50 years, so we have various reserve funds for various things, and we figure we don’t need the amount in the equipment (budget),” said Mayor John Ranns. “The only building we will think we will need to build in the next decade would be the fire hall.”
The community has replaced all fire equipment needed and because of mild winters, their Snow and Storm Operations Reserve sat sufficiently stocked to make the reallocation of reserve funds a relatively seamless decision. Ranns said their pay-as-you-go model has led to Metchosin being one of few municipalities without debt.
“We can do this because we’re a rural municipality. I’m not pointing the finger and saying to urban ones, ‘you should do what we do,’” he said. “We’re able to do it because we know there won’t be significant growth, so what we build will last. We can accurately predict what it will cost.”
There is no exact timeline for building a new fire hall, but Ranns said it would only happen when there was enough money to build it. The same with any future infrastructure, maintenance or upgrades. With Metchosin bringing in only about $1.5 million in taxes annually, he said, their frugality is born out of necessity.
“I was elected in 1987 and maybe I have the benefit of ‘been there, done that,’ but I have lived through high interest rates and it’s tough,” he said.
Despite being the second largest municipality in the West Shore geographically, they have no curbs and gutters, and their public works department is three people. With only a handful of key municipal staff, and a model of using contractors in lieu of most staff, the municipality has eliminated many of the expenditures other municipalities incur, in part to ensure the viability of keeping their community exactly what it is.
“No one is going to say they are going to take down all those condos and put a farm there … But we have to worry about (the opposite) and be on guard all the time. We fear the urban mindset,” he said. “If we are going to maintain rural sustainability, we have to operate the way we are fiscally. If we don’t operate that way, we won’t be able to maintain the rural direction. One is dependent on the other.”