Forget About Cherries, Lets Talk Apples…

Books and apple

There has been a great deal said about costs and affordability at each step in the fire hall replacement process. Each time taxpayers were told that the proposal was the ‘bare bones’ and could not be any cheaper, as well the statement was always made that costs were going up and we need to build now before it gets more expensive. Those who have tracked this issue will recall the first proposal was $6.3 million, the first referendum was for $4.2 million, the second referendum was for $3.4 million, and the most recent is for $2.4 million.

We question whether the numbers would not be lower if the existing proposal was not to build on the footprint of the current building. The 2011 consultants report clearly identified that saving the existing assets alone would result in significant savings, not having to rent temporary structures to house the fire department also would result in substantial savings. The consultants recommendations are covered in the ‘Cherry Picking’ article on the MIRRA website.

The owners of the adjoining property have repeatedly expressed an interest in selling property to the Improvement District. The Islands Trust executive have already waived all fees associated with the subdivision and rezoning of the property and would do so in an expedited manner.

In our research we have yet to find an example locally where an existing fire hall has been demolished to make way for a new hall. Almost every community repurposes the old building after the new hall is built. Once the large vehicle openings are removed, upgrading an old hall to a suitable safe standard is not complex and the community’s asset lives on in a new role. We suggest that we follow the model of North Saanich and repurpose the vehicle bays for offices and meeting space for the Improvement District, resulting in an overall reduction of size in the new building and the resulting savings.

In an effort to give an ‘apples to apples’ comparision, here are some local examples of what other communities have done recently:

East Sooke

6 Bays

Repurposed hall

Many extra hall amenities

$2.12 Million


North Galiano Island

2 Bays

Repurposed hall



Saturna Island

7 bays (Two buildings on separate sites)

Old hall sold to private interests

Included land acquisition and many extras

$1.2 Million



North Saanich

6 bays

Repurposed hall

Many extra amenities including training tower

$1.6 Million


While each community has individual needs and construction costs vary depending on amenities and facility requirements, we feel confident that a better, more economical proposal can be put forward using the adjacent property that has been offered to the community by the owners. One substantial ancillary benefit would be the overall savings in the rehabilitation of the old schoolhouse by the firefighters association using donated funds. Being able to retain it on its existing site will save many dollars and volunteer hours. We also would save the existing in ground and elevated water tanks, which are valuable community assets.

These are just a few examples which show clearly that retaining the old building and acquiring new property where available are cost saving measures utilized by districts everywhere to reduce costs and additionally gaining the best benefit for taxpayers by preserving and re-purposing where possible their old community assets. MIRRA is not supporting ideas and suggestions that are nebulous wishful thinking. These are real life, cost saving, frugal easily implemented solutions which are widely implemented and which need not necessarily delay the construction program.

These are all issues which the public asked the MIID Trustees to pursue after the last failed referendum. It seems from the responses we have received, that their efforts on these have been lacking.

We appreciate that the Improvement District has looked at and rejected building on another site, but we believe they did this with haste – not taking into account the overall economic benefits and without thorough consultation of construction or engineering professionals who perhaps would have guided them in another direction. As proposed the fire hall is being developed site wise in the most expensive method possible. There are alternatives, the community has voiced its support for those alternatives for many years now, yet the Trustees seem to offer absolutely no flexibility and consistently put forward the most expensive proposals.

If you took the existing proposed building and purchased new land anywhere on the island hundreds of thousands of dollars would be saved, in addition hundreds of thousands of dollars of community assets would be saved – why is it we are being told the only suitable location for a fire hall on our island is the exact footprint of the existing building?

We suggest it’s time to think outside of the box.