Fire Hall Referendum Concerns

 

March 19, 2014

Mayne Island Residents and Ratepayers Association

 On March 15, 2014 Mayne Island Improvement District Trustees held a public meeting to discuss the new fire hall plans. Several issues came up, the most concerning of which is the Trustees’ decision to not allow a mail in ballot in this referendum. Contrary to our understanding from the meeting, research of ministry information has shown the decision to not do a mail-out is the Trustee’s. The majority of votes cast at the last referendum were mailed in. People away on holidays, Island residents who do not live here full time or have property as investments, make up the majority of taxpayers on Mayne  Island. They are not receiving a mail-out information circular or a mail-in ballot (as in the two past referendums) but will have to find an ad in a major newspaper. For less than it costs to publish ads, a direct mail campaign wouldensure all voters have a fair opportunity to be informed of this taxation issue.

Please see this link for clarification as the the Ministry’s point of view on the decision making process:

http://www.soundernews.com/news/ministry-says-fire-board-holds-referendum-responsibilities.html

The second major issue is the acquisition of more land for the firehall site. It would seem a wiser expenditure of tax dollars, considering that for the same or less money, we could build a new firehall on a new piece of property. This creates a less crowded site location, room for future expansion and eliminates significant expense in relocating the fire department during construction. Retaining and upgrading the existing hall for community use also warrants consideration. There are good reasons pro and con, but there is no need to rush to judgement if the new hall is located next door. A conventional fire hall design permits easy access to and from Felix Jack Road in either direction from the westerly property. The Islands Trust has indicated support for a speedy rezoning process as a community amenity and the Trust Executive have waived all fees for such a process should the purchase be from the neighbouring westerly property owners. One of the owners attended the March 15th meeting and expressed their ongoing interest in participating in this proposal.

 Thirdly, taxation fairness was well discussed in the last failed referendum. A parcel tax was widely supported within the community, as opposed to the currently presented assessment tax. As the fire hall is a capital asset owned by the community as a whole, a parcel tax shares the cost evenly across all properties. MIID purchased a $40,000 software program in 2013 for the Health Centre tax, and this new tax would just be an added line item. Why would we not want better use from that $40,000 expenditure?

Billing our own tax would save $8,000 annually in collection fees from the Province.

 It is not unusual for referendums of this type to fail multiple times before the underlying proposals are refined into a form acceptable to the taxpayers. The present (and past) MIID Trustees have laboured long and hard to bring the project to this stage. These island volunteers are understandably anxious to see the fire hall project concluded, but rushing through a very brief information and consultation period is producing a flawed process. For this proposal, total costs including loan interest over 20 years are about $3,400,000, in a time of economic uncertainty and negative effects of threats to our ferry service. Please give this serious consideration when you reach the ballot box.

On behalf of the Board of Directors,

MIRRA

_________________________________________________________________________

 

 Letter from MIRRA Member.

 

To: Tom Moore

 

Returning Officer, Mayne Island Fire Hall Referendum

Dear Mr. Moore,

Our Mayne Island Improvement District executive held its information meeting regarding the Fire Hall Referendum on Saturday, March 15th.

Questions were asked concerning the process for providing notice to off island property owners. We were advised the advertising budget was being spent on the daily print media. There was a proposal from the floor that the budget expenditure would be far more productive in notifying off island taxpayers if it were applied to a mail-out. We were told by the Improvement District executive that this option was outside their control and was dictated by the Ministry.

We moved to Mayne Island three years ago, following construction of our home. We were on Island during the last fire hall referendum. The referendum polarized the island residence, one only had to read the local paper to recognize the division the process created. The previous referendum offered a more inclusive voting process, it allowed off island propery owners to mail in their vote. Of the approximate 1240 votes, 750 were mailed in, 60% of cast votes were mailed.

As a member of the newly proposed fire hall building committee, I have a personal intererest in this project. Regardless I feel in the interest of fairness and our community’s harmony every effort should be made to ensure all taxpayers have an opportunity to participate in this referendum. Beside beinginformed of the referendum, off island property owners require sufficient notice to make travel plans in order to vote. Considering the mailing address of off island property owners is known, why would the randomness of a newspaper ad not be complimented by a mail-out which would target the notice directly to the taxpayer. In the interest of fairness every effort should be made to allow all property owners to participate.

I look forward to your response.

Yours truly,

Carl Bunnin

 

 We did receive a negative comment, which we feel should be addressed:

Anonymous Comment: Does MIRRA have anything at all positive to say about the firehall? Can MIRRA present a balanced viewpoint on the issues? Everything I see printed or emailed is negative. This MIRRA full frontal attack and anonymous letter campaign against MIID over the firehall exhibits the absolute worst of negative Conservative or US political campaigns. It has gotten to the point where MIRRA’s voice is being tuned out as coming from crazy embittered people who cannot see anything objectively nor get along with anyone. I thought after the last failed referendum MIRRA was going to participate fully with MIID in the new design – now it looks like y’all just gleefully went into hiding only to pop up again like guerrillas to lob some more rocks and grenades. Name withheld by request. Time: March 23, 2014 at 9:20 pm.

MIRRA RESPONSE

In response to the letter sent by name “withheld” MIRRA has the following comments as this was a direct attack on MIRRA Directors…

To address the accusation of MIRRA taking a “full frontal attack and anonymous letter campaign”, MIRRA has not yet taken a position as an organization and has stated so. The emails and commentaries posted come directly from community members and are posted anonymously to protect people from attacks such as yours. The same response applies to your calling MIRRA Directors “crazy, embittered people”.

Your reference to the last failed referendum is weak at best and shows a lack of knowledge of the facts. You may feel it is allright to spend taxpayers money frivolously and freely and omit critical financial information in public disclosures but MIRRA does not. Because of MIRRA’S and community efforts the new proposal is over $1,000,000 below the price of the last fire hall proposal. As far as MIRRA directors “going into hiding only to pop up again like Guerillas”, nothing could be less accurate. MIRRA organized, with the Conservancy, town hall deer forums and addressed the habitat destruction being heaped on this island by fallow deer populations. Extensive articles appeared in the Mayneliner. This has lead to the creation of the Deer Committee and negotiations with Government to take responsibility and deal with this environmental disaster. MIRRA Directors are directly involved with the SGI Economic Development Commission and the Experience the Gulf Islands Project, bringing the Trans Canada Trails, Eco Tourism and all related infrastructures and economic expansion to the Islands.  MIRRA Directors are directly responsible for the implementation and funding of our bus which has lead to an Islands wide transportation study by the BC Transit Authority who will be offering a subsidized transportation system to all the SGI Islands. MIRRA is now in the process of including improvement in planning and expenditures of our parcel tax funds to utilize part of that for our share of the bus system on Mayne. MIRRA Directors lead the way to creating better maintenance and operations of our docks at Miners and Horton Bays.

On more than one occasion, MIRRA has offered assistance to MIID on the firehall project and such help was politely refused.

MIRRA is listening to the community and is ready now to post a position on the firehall in the Mayneliner. We have listened to our members, the community at large and agree that there are good things which have been accomplished by the MIID Trustees but we also agree with those who have commented that there still needs to be more work to improve the model. This is not just the opinion of lay people “throwing rocks”, a professional consultant hired by MIID expressed the exact concerns with which we agree.

MIRRA Directors understand your emotions on this issue, but this is a democracy and all people have a voice. We agree on one thing, the last failed referendum was an humiliating and embarrassing event for the people of Mayne Island. The personal attacks that were endured by those who dared to speak up was inexcusable. This time we provided an anonymous forum for folks to voice their opinions.

What has been accomplished so far? Savings of well over $1 million dollars of our tax money.

MIRRA does not think that was a waste of time sir or madam.

 

 

 

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