View Royal fire hall the right decision for town

It is time to make this much needed investment in our fire department and our community.

I write in response to the letter of Aug. 1, “Property tax rates in View Royal leave little room for fire hall”. In the 10 years that I have been on council, View Royal has consistently maintained the third or fourth lowest residential tax rate in the Capital Regional District.

Ms. Saladana states in her letter that the mill rate goes up every year. This is simply not the case. The mill rate has, in fact, gone from 3.11 in 2002 to 2.35 in 2012. As a council we have worked hard to keep our tax rates comparatively low while also recognizing the importance of investing in our community.

The writer goes on to make a rather reckless suggestion that View Royal residents would be better served if the town was to abrogate its responsibility to provide fire protection and allow our town to be served by a substation of Colwood’s fire department. She asks that a detailed study be conducted on this idea. Frankly, I don’t need a detailed study to know that this is not a good course of action.

View Royal is served by an exceptional and dedicated largely volunteer fire department. In recent history this department has saved a national historic site (Craigflower Manor) and a local institution (the Four Mile pub) from almost certain destruction if not for less than five minute response times in each case. Due to the firefighters expertise and quick response damage in each case was minimal.

On top of this they respond to hundreds of other calls through our Town, including medical aid calls and motor vehicle accidents on our busy roads. They contribute to our community in a way that is immeasurable in terms of dollars and cents and they are also responsible for fire protection on the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations lands.

We have an automatic aid agreement already with Colwood and our Emergency Services personnel are fully integrated. View Royal residents have this exceptional level of service at an extremely reasonable cost.

Last year, View Royal’s total firefighting bill was just over $1 million. Neighbouring Esquimalt’s was $3.6 million and neighbouring Colwood’s was $1.8 million. The suggestion that we should consider offering View Royal a lesser degree of service in return for some fictional savings is, frankly, just illogical. Fire protection is a life and safety issue and a responsibility that must be taken extremely seriously.

I would also like to touch on Ms. Saladana’s claim that existing residents will bear the full cost of the new building and other impending projects. There is a major new development proposal in process for North View Royal. This project has committed a $1 million cash contribution to the fire hall and on build out will generate some $500,000 in municipal tax revenue.

Regardless of what may happen down the road in terms of fire service, View Royal will always need a building within its boundaries to meet acceptable response times. The current building has served us well but is now antiquated and insufficient for a modern day fire department. Interest rates are at record lows and the construction costs are lower now than they were five years ago.

It is time to make this much needed investment in our fire department and our community.

Coun. David Screech

View Royal

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