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?
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.
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
A Rational Approach
In response to many questions from community members, Mayne Island Residents & Ratepayers Association has compiled the following alternate proposal for a new firehall for your consideration. MIRRA is in no way competing with MIID on this project but taking a different approach in presenting an alternate model for public consideration.
MIID has done the hard work of creating a basic costing, siting and planning from which we can now easily extrapolate the numbers and apply them to an alternate plan of construction.
This alternative proposal incorporates suggestions from the community and consultants which go all the way from current, back to the previous referendum and that have been applied to other districts’ new firehalls.
This alternative proposal is not intended to be exact but accurate within a reasonable estimate.
MIRRA hopes you will find this comparison between the two strategies interesting and informative.
1) Site Preparation- $224,750
2) Temporary facilities, Moving and Storage costs, Interest, Insurance, Permits, Legal- $256,250
3) Total- $481,000
4) Building design, management & construction- $1,596,372
5) Contingency- $316,161 (20% of building costs)
6) Total- $2,393,533
1) Building- $998,932
2) Contingency- $199,786
3) Upgrade and renovate existing building- $250,000
4) Buy new land, site prep, insurance etc.- $168,300
5) Total costs for new firehall- $1,617,018
Alternative Proposal details:
Including the cost of buying 1 acre of the westerly property, upgrading, re-cladding and renovating the old firehall up to a safety standard including new administration offices, still reduces site preparation, demolition etc. costs a total- $62,700.00
As a bonus we keep the existing water tanks and all infrastructure, and leave the school house where it is.
Upgrading, re-cladding and renovating the existing building eliminates the need for 3,167 square feet of administrative area in the new building. This space would be accommodated in the upgraded and renovated existing building. This eliminates $506,720 in construction, design, and management costs of the new hall @ $160/sq.ft. and eliminates the need for 1,134 square feet of mezzanine area @ about $80/sq. ft. – $90,720
Building costs savings- $597,440.00
Engineering estimated costs to bring old building to standard- $100,000
Estimated costs to close in old truck bays and convert to office space and community space, re-clad the exterior- $150,000
Contingency on proposed Alternative Building $ 199,786 @ 20% of building cost total contingency savings- $116,374
Alternative Proposal total savings estimate:
Total Savings- $776,514
Alternate Proposal loan interest savings over 20 years;
Interest Savings estimate- $300,000
MIRRA presents here a comparison for the new building if different choices and priorities are given more consideration.
More savings which can also be gained, for example:
1) Building a conventional 4 bay structure allows for simple and easy future expansion, if that is even ever required. The Alternative Proposal is based upon the current MIID 6 bay drive thru model because those are MIID numbers to which a comparison can be made.
2) Parcel tax instead of an assessment saves taxpayers the quoted $8,000 per year in Government collection charges and utilizes more beneficially the $40,000 software program bought in 2013, for the Heath Centre tax collection. The firehall would just be a simple line item addition to that collection.
3) A fixed-price quote as opposed to the current cost-plus estimate should eliminate the requirement of a 20% contingency, which in almost all cases will be fully consumed. In a fixed-price quote, any cost over runs are the problem of the contractor.
4) A drive thru garage is not critical. In cities where land is in short supply and halls are built on lots, trucks back into the hall from the street. In our circumstance, most of the time, the rear truck will remain in the hall on a call out, therefore, when the truck returns, it will be backing in anyway. Why use up all of our land creating ring around roads for an unnecessary drive through design? Why go to the considerable extra expense of a drive thru?
Certain cost items may have been overlooked in this proposal, as are also potentially more savings.
However, the projected savings of over $3/4 million are sufficient to warrant a serious look at the current MIID proposal.
The Alternative Proposal outlined here is not from MIRRA alone but also follows some of the recommendations of the Consultant hired by MIID in 2011. As well it utilizes methods implemented in new firehall construction projects in areas such as North Saanich, Port Coquitlam, East Sooke, and Saturna Island etc.
This Alternative Proposal might have been implemented had the MIID held the requested public meetings during their planning process. The following positive points are readily obvious:
Finally, this project can go to referendum this summer and commence work at any time and we don’t waste money relocating the fire department during construction.
Please forward this information to anyone you know who may be interested, and check for updates on the MIRRA website: www.maynebc.com
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:
Many extra hall amenities
North Galiano Island
7 bays (Two buildings on separate sites)
Old hall sold to private interests
Included land acquisition and many extras
Many extra amenities including training tower
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.
At the March 15, 2014 public meeting, in response to MIRRA questioning the need for a six bay fire hall, the statement was made that a six bay fire hall was being proposed specifically as it was the primary recommendation of the consultant that was hired on 2011 to review the fire department and its operations.
What was not stated was the consultant at that time recommended MIID have six pieces of apparatus (Vehicles) for operations. In July 2013, the Fire Chief stated that an operational review determined only four pieces of apparatus were required for operations.
There was also indifference to MIIRA’s position that the existing fire hall not be demolished and the new hall should be built on adjacent lands.
In commenting on the previous (2011) proposed hall (referred to as the ‘class B plan’), the consultant had the following to say:
“The Class B plan did have a satisfactory site plan but it also added considerably to the overall project cost. There is a lot of infrastructure on the present site that must be taken into consideration when planning for a new fire hall. Considerable money has been spent on an emergency standby generator, owned and operated by the MIID that is located to the North of the existing fire hall toward the ambulance station. There is also an underground water tank directly in front of the fire hall located under the concrete apron. To the rear of the fire hall there is an old wood structure that was built as a hose drying and training tower. To the West of that is a concrete bulkhead that supports an elevated water tank. There is also an above ground water tank directly behind the fire hall rear stairs that catches rain water and an above ground water tank farm located behind the old hose tower structure. With the exception of the large concrete bulkhead which would take some money and effort to relocate, these tanks could be relocated to another location on the site as required.”
“A complicating factor is also the old schoolhouse building that is situated approximately 20 feet to the southeast corner of the existing fire hall. It will have to be moved regardless of what type of fire hall is built over the existing fire hall footprint.”
“The site plan in the Class B design made good use of the site but it would necessitate the relocation of the old schoolhouse building and other infrastructure, which would have added significantly to the overall project cost.”
“MIID should consider acquiring 1 acre of land to the west of the property they currently own. Buying more land for a new fire hall may require re-zoning which could delay the construction of a new fire hall. If it is not possible to acquire land adjacent to the west, another fire hall location could be considered. They should also consider building a new 6 bay drive through fire hall on the newly acquired land. This would allow the existing building to be used until a new building is built and ready to occupy. This would save the district money because all of the existing infrastructure could remain as is. The old school house could remain in its current position as could the tank farm, the elevated tank and hose tower.”
His actual recommendations were:
MIID should consider purchasing 1 acre of land adjacent to their property to construct a new 6 bay fire hall or another suitable site for a new fire hall.
Since a new fire hall is a priority and since cost is a factor, a new fire hall should be separated from as much of the site re-development as possible.
Now that was not exactly what was said at the meeting, was it…..
The full consultants report can be viewed here:
Specifically pages 20 and 29 are quoted.
The consultant’s recommendations are on page 30.
The online report on having four active pieces of apparatus is here:
The Mayneliner article on this topic of four vehicles:
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:
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,
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.
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.
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.
MIRRA thanks all of the Trustees and volunteers who contributed much time and effort to the new firehall construction project. It has been a long, arduous and difficult struggle for all involved. As this latest process has been progressing, MIRRA Directors have been approached by members of the public with many questions as to status of developments. This is not a simple process as we tend to build very few fire halls. This is also a difficult task for the public themselves who are facing another cost of living increase.
MIRRA believes this decision is important and costly and that time should not be an issue in getting it right to insure success at referendum. We are also concerned as to the limited opportunities for off island taxpayers to be informed of or participate in the referendum process.
On February 15th 2014, MIID held an open house at which they presented their proposal for the new fire hall.
The following questions have been subsequently raised:
Cost of construction:
The new building is still in the $2.5 million range. The Trustees have done well to reduce the price but what is the breakdown of the costs? In 2011, the Improvement District received an estimate for the cost of upgrading the existing vehicle bays to utilize them as office space by removing the doors and installing seismic interior walls at $100,000.00. We understand the cost of removing the old hall is over $300,000. There is also an added cost to relocate the fire department during construction.
Community debt load:
With our small population, a lot of whom are on fixed incomes, an undertaking of this magnitude is a serious issue which must justify the additional increase in the cost of living that our community must bear. Another major issue is the state of our local economy, housing market declines and population declines.
Why was a drive through design chosen? As vehicles park 2 deep, almost every call out time the front truck only will leave having to back in returning due to the rear truck remaining in the bay. What is the point of the extra complications and additional costs of land development to accommodate a drive through?
What type of building contract have MIID entered into? Why have they contracted before community consultation?
Was the bid process for the building a design/build tender for a turnkey project with a guaranteed price?
If not- why not? If not, how can we establish an actual cost to go to referendum?
In a July 2013 memo the fire chief stated that we would be a 4 vehicle fire department – why is the proposal for a 6 bay fire hall?
Location of building and adjoining property:
At the last go round of public input on the firehall project there was a strong community will to retain the old building and re-purpose it if possible. The natural option is to acquire a portion of the adjoining westerly property and construct or expand the new building into that location. The cost discussed is $50,000 for a 1/2 acre.
Can we now acquire the property, and doing so, site the new building there and retain the old building? Can this be accomplished more efficiently if we drop the drive through aspect of the proposed new structure?
Removal of old building concerns:
Keeping the old building will provide a community asset as well as an appropriate shelter for the Fire Department staff and trucks during construction in accordance with Fire underwriters dwelling protection grade 3B. If we remove the old building before the new one is completed, we will bear the expense of constructing new office and temporary garage structures for the storage of vehicles. Failure to do so in accordance with regulations, will be a violation of the Fire Underwriters 3B regulation potentially affecting insurance policies on Mayne Island. Have MIID investigated this?
Community members clearly expressed a preference for a parcel tax at the last referendum. There are benefits to both styles of taxation, but affordability to all taxpayers must be a paramount consideration in selecting a taxation model. MIID has chosen to use an assessment based tax as opposed to a parcel tax. The greatest tax burden will be on the higher assessed properties and homes and local businesses.
A parcel tax is different in that everyone pays the same and you can opt to pay it in advance in one time payment. This tax is for a community asset not a service.
What are the comparisons between what it will cost individuals and businesses under both types of taxation?
Taxation method calculations ( for comparisons only these are not precise but are considered representative); comparisons using $35.00 (Trustees estimate) per $100,000 assessed value for residential and for business 2.45 times residential or $85.75 per $100,000 assessed value for businesses @ $650,000 value.
Parcel tax $100.00 (calculated estimate based on $2.4 million loan @5%)
Assessment tax- $227.50
Parcel tax- $245
Assessment tax- $557.37
Approximate current (2012 assessment notices) Improvement District taxes using $650,000 assessment:
Impact of new tax proposals on Improvement District taxes using $650,000 assessment:
New Residential- parcel tax- $900
New Residential- assessment tax- $1027.50
New Businesses -parcel tax- $2205.00
New Business -assessment tax- $2517.37
MIID quoted Costs of using Provincial Government to collect an assessment tax-
– $8000.00 per year or 5% of taxes.
Costs of MIID collecting parcel tax- $0.00
These are some questions, issues and comparisons that have been requested, brought to and discussed with MIRRA Reps. MIRRA has posted them for your information. Some of the issues may be important to you and some may not.
MIRRA is striving to provide a balanced viewpoint for all to assess based on their individual circumstances. It is important for MIID to now hold an open forum Town Hall meeting where members of the community can direct questions to the Trustees.
Please let us know what you think of the new firehall proposals, suggestions you may have and if you would or would not support the current proposals.
What do you think MIRRA should do at this point, if anything?
On behalf of MIRRA Directors
SSI Superior Shuttle info: As discussed during the fire hall referendum, gaining Superior Shuttle accreditation does not guarantee reduced insurance rates to property owners island wide. Such accreditation makes it so islanders are eligible to apply for reduced insurance rates. A clear example of this comes from Saltspring, with three fire halls, many hydrants over the entire island and seven full time firefighters on staff a significant part of the island is not eligible for these insurance savings. The bottom line is if you live at the end of a long driveway, in a remote part of the island or on the top of a hill your property will not be eligible for insurance savings under the superior shuttle program.
We believe the long term goal of obtaining Superior Shuttle accreditation is honorable and worthy of support, but it must not be tied to inflammatory generalized statements at the time of referendum. In addition that goal should not be obtained at any cost, if it can be done as part of a reasonable updating and upgrading of our firefighting services it deserves endorsement from all quarters. If such efforts result in substantial increases in taxation to all islanders when not all islanders would benefit from insurance savings, it must be questioned.
Mayne Island has a well funded, well staffed fire department that, at times, is under appreciated. The service provided and countless hours put in by the members needs to be acknowledged by all members of our community.
Mayne Island Residents and Ratepayers Association
March 2011 Newsletter
MIRRA Maintains “VOTE NO” Position on Fire Hall Referendum
Sound Reasons to Vote No:
• $3.4 million for this project is too expensive and puts us in heavy debt for too long.
• We face other upcoming infrastructure costs (health centre expansion) and our small tax base will soon need to meet these demands as well.
• MIID needs to heed all the tax payers concerns and adopt an attitude of fiscal restraint in a time of economic uncertainty.
• Parcel tax is the usual form of levy for such projects and is the fairest way to share the cost among property owners in the community.
• Mayne Island’s fire hall problem can be solved for much less than $3.4 million; our neighbors on Saturna have shown this.
• Superior Shuttle Service certification remains a possibility with a more economical fire hall design; it is not dependent on this more costly version.
MIRRA recommends a NO vote to send this project back to the drawing board for a more affordable solution.
How a Community Makes Decisions
Of all the levels of government that impact our lives, the Mayne Island Improvement District is the one closest to us, and most within our reach to influence. There’s no shame or offense in daring to question this body that is here to serve us. It is the right of citizens to hold their government accountable and freely communicate their opinions, especially on complex and controversial proposed projects they (and their descendants) will have to pay for. So, take a chance – talk to your friends and neighbors about the referendum question. Share your views and questions. Then vote – for the solution that solves the problem with the least possible financial hardship for the community.
MIID AGM: April 16th
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Improvement District posted the financial report on their website ahead of the AGM to allow for meaningful examination by the community? And how about allowing some time for candidates for the three available Trustee positions to introduce themselves and their reasons for running? Candidates and electors deserve it.
Memberships and donations are what cover expenses.
MIRRA sent out over 1,000 letters to off-island property owners February 1st, to make sure they received information they would not hear from the Mayne Island Improvement District, and recommending a No vote on the fire hall referendum.
If you would like to support the work of MIRRA, individual memberships are $10 and donations are gratefully accepted.
MIRRA S1-C55, Mayne Island, BC, V0N2J0
MIRRA’s purposes are:
To scrutinize the taxation and levies imposed on our residents from the five levels of government;
To lobby elected, appointed and other officials to obtain the best possible services for the community;
To monitor the processes being used to impose taxes and recommend changes to improve transparency and accountability of the organizations imposing the levies;
Communicate with our residents and the broader public through articles and electronic media.
Respectfully submitted by the MIRRA Executive
Bob McKinnon, Colleen Ming, Barry Wilks, Dave Lindquist, Wayne Ming