Insurance And Fire Hydrants – What Are Our Priorities?

Below are some emails that have been circulating on island, these are the views of individuals and are presented for information:

Dear Mayne Islander:

We face a decision about a new Fire Hall. Permission is being sought to spend $2.4 million to build a much-enlarged facility. Is this the right goal related to firefighting on Mayne Island? Last week, friends of mine received bad news from their insurance company. Their policy for one of their properties rose by about $2,400 a year because they were only “semi-protected” from fire by existing, apparently inadequate, water facilities. Not only that, but the insurance company immediately increased the premiums for their other properties. Their total hit will exceed $5,000 per year!  The immediate cause of this situation was a response of our Fire Chief to an enquiry by their insurance company. That response puts all Mayne Island property owners at risk for significant increases in their insurance premiums. It will soon be common knowledge among insurance companies that Mayne Island properties lack appropriate firefighting capabilities and, consequently, all of our premiums will increase!

There are opportunities to vote on the matter of the Fire Hall on Wednesday April 9, Saturday April 11 and Saturday April 19th. Please consider this matter and vote

Monument or Solutions?

It’s not unusual for us to address the wrong problems. It’s often easier to do something, anything, rather than to do what’s really needed. We face a decision about a new Fire Hall. Permission is being sought to spend $2.4 million to build a much-enlarged facility. Is this the right goal related to firefighting on Mayne Island? 

Last week, friends of mine received bad news from their insurance company. Their policy for one of their properties rose by about $2,400 a year because they were only “semi-protected” from fire by existing, apparently inadequate, water facilities. Not only that, but the insurance company immediately increased the premiums for their other properties. Their total hit will exceed $5,000 per year.

What do you mean, “existing, apparently inadequate, water facilities”? Well, there’s a bit of the story there. My friends’ insurance company emailed our Fire Chief asking him to indicate the level of fire protection on a property connected to the Village Point Improvement District facilities and has a ‘standpipe’ – so there is water. The Fire Chief Responded as follows:

·         “The fire hydrant you refer to is not a “Fire Hydrant” – it is a flush point used by the water district and they have generously fitting (sic) it with a fire department threaded connection for general use only. It does not meet any NFPA requirements for fire hydrant protection…”

·         Although the access is difficult for our large fire trucks (emphasis added) I am confident we can gain access to both homes either directly or with longer hose lays.”

You can imagine that this was not the kind of response the owners expected. The letter indicates a challenge with regard to adequate water supply, which the insurance company requires being within 300 meters of a building. It also indicates a challenge in reaching the property with specific equipment and implies that some of our fire equipment may not be appropriate for the Mayne landscape. An independent insurance professional confirmed that those challenges are major issues for insurance companies. They are risk averse and try to protect themselves.

The point of this letter is that the Fire Chief’s response to the insurance company puts all Mayne Island property owners at risk for significant increases in their insurance premiums.

If you don’t believe that this is a real problem, note that this property owner was immediately affected related to other properties. It will soon be common knowledge among insurance companies that Mayne Island properties lack appropriate firefighting capabilities and, consequently, all of our premiums will increase! Mine certainly will because I deal with the same companies.

We all need to ask ourselves if the expenditure of funds on a building, the new Fire Hall, is the appropriate expenditure. Is this not just a house for equipment that ignores “existing, apparently inadequate, water facilities”? In simple terms, is this where we should spend our hard-earned money? Note also that the Fire Hall will cost my friends an additional over $900 per year.

I am also concerned about leadership with respect to firefighting. The previous proposal was DOA due to a financial mistake. Now we have another proposal other islands have been able to address less expensively. Add to that the letter that went to the insurance company. It’s understandable to wonder if leadership is an issue.

As you vote on the new Fire Hall proposal, please consider if this is the best use of funds. Should we construct expensive facilities that house pretty equipment, or should we deal with the significant problem of addressing firefighting on Mayne Island. Do we want a monument? Or do we want solutions?

Dominic Covvey

 

Hi Dominic:

 Thank you for your communication. There are other things wrong with the new suggestions. For instance, the very large social areas shown within the floor plan are unnecessary for the safety of the island. The crew should not ask taxpayers to fund another area as  dependance of the community halls already in place.

 Then the distribution via value of properties rather then via a parcel tax is not an equal distribution connecting with safety but rather putting the burden of payments to “wealthier properties”, this is unacceptable. Financing as well is not prudent at all. Why should we carry the burden for almost 5% interest payments when the markets offer below 2.9%. We do not need a fixed period of 20 years, this is quite ridiculous. As proven for decades, variable is the better and cheaper solution for years to come.  

 Overall, the whole plan and the process, again, is unfair, much too high flying and unacceptable to be financed by the population in the way it has been proposed. I must be cut down substantially, be a genuine firehall instead of a social hum, be sensibly planed for open process bidding on all detail costs, which has not been shown with the current proposal. Distribution must be equal to all residents, i.e. via parcel tax.

 Sincerely

 ARBUTUS BAY ESTATES

Paula M. Buchholz

 

LETTER FROM COMMUNITY MEMBER

To The Mayne Island Ratepayers

I’m sorry to have to write this letter. I thought for once the people of Mayne Island could work together to accomplish a task that is 20 years overdue in a manner that could make us all as proud of our community as we are of the hard work of Mayne Island Fire Rescue. I know how much effort MIFR puts in because I have been with them for 35 years. Conservatively I estimate it has cost me $75,000 of income . In the last year many of us have given in excess of 500 unpaid hours of our time in training so we can meet the same standard as city departments, a certification requirement.

How can you so easily brush aside the work of yet another board that ourcommunity elected and suggest that they are such fools.

We live on an island, unlike other fire departments on the mainland where other trucks are on their way in the event of a major fire we are on our own. If we do not knock down a fire in the first 10 minutes we are likely to use another tanker full of water in the next 10. In the heat of summer our present 3 tankers have saved Mayne twice in the last 2 years from disaster. We have agreements with Pender Fire Rescue and other Departments on other islands for mutual assistance when necessary, but without a water supply they become useless. We have all experienced how dry Mayne becomes in the summer, we must react quickly with appropriate equipment.

Our Trucks must be ready to be deployed , not frozen in winter.

As for the anonymous Mayne Island Rate Payers ,they have only one issue. They represent a group of large landowners who would have us not use an assessment based model( the one used for all property taxes), so we can pay more and they can pay less!

When the last referendum was defeated and the work of Paddy Lambert , Jim Marlon Lambert and many other hard working islanders, men and women whom I respect greatly for their efforts to make sure we are protected , I was hurt. The new board has done their work and has brought you a proposal to build a basic structure to ensure our investment in equipment is protected and ready to be deployed in the event of an emergency.

Let’s now do something we can be proud of and support everyone’s hard work. It feels good to do the right thing. So vote YES

 

 

MAYNE ISLAND RESIDENTS AND RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION

April 8, 2014

Dear Mr. Not anonymous,

Again we only respond because you have commented about the position of MIRRA and the work that we do for the community.

In response to your letter berating Mr. Covvey, MIRRA and its members, we suggest we stick to the topic and that is the firehall. You have questioned MIRRA’s commitment to good fire protection on Mayne Island when that is in no way relevant to this discussion or referendum. This referendum is not about support for the fire fighters, it is a fiscal and taxation matter about the construction of a new firehall. A significant amount of tax money is collected every year from this community for the Fire Department. In fact our Fire Department costs are higher per capita than the Penders, Galiano, and Saltspring Island. The Fire Department here is well funded and we feel it is disrespectful and inaccurate to slam the taxpayers claiming that it is underfunded and are left out in the cold.

This community holds our firefighters in very high regard and supports and appreciates the efforts of all those who serve the Island. On top of taxes, donations for new equipment, firefighters fundraisers and other support, has seen substantial community participation. MIRRA members and Directors have contributed generously.

Conversely you seem to have no appreciation for what the community does for the firefighters. You also do not indicate a respect for fiscal efforts to spend additional tax money a little more wisely, in the best interests of all members of this community, including the firefighters.

As far as a parcel tax, it was widely supported in the community after the last failed referendum and is still. This referendum is to build a community asset. It is not for a service which has some relation to property size and extent of buildings. Everyone shares a parcel tax equally.

Your statement reflecting on the financial status of individuals as compared to the size of their properties has no merit. There are many people in our community who have had their large lands for more than one generation and already find it difficult to pay all of the associated taxes.

There are also very well to do individuals who own non conforming, noninspected properties which they rent out. Those properties would represent the greatest risk of a house fire and yet would pay the least in an assessment tax.

So what is fair? A reasonable tax at about $100, and a closer examination of how our tax money is spent building new infrastructure? Comparing proposed costs and procedures to firehalls recently built in other areas? Is this unreasonable? How about community involvement in the planning process? A couple of Town Hall meetings perhaps so these views could have been presented during the planning process? Is that unreasonable?

The points raised here by community members are valid and free for all to participate. As we have stated, the anonymous status of the commentary is to allow folks the freedom to express their views without fear of reprisals and unwarranted attacks.

This is a democratic process and everyone who wishes is entitled to have their say.

On behalf of the Board, MIRRA

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