We may see for the second time in the last couple of years enough petitions submitted in a municipal alternative approval process to see proposed borrowing having to go to referendum. People in View Royal have until today to submit their petition form to the municipality to force the Fire Hall borrowing issue to referendum.
The alternative approval process requires a petition of 10% of the registered voters to submit a form to stop the borrowing process moving forward. In the case of View Royal this is 770 registered voters. Realistically there would have to be 850 to 900 forms submitted to ensure that the 10% total is crossed. People that are not registered voters can not submit a form.
In the election last year the voter turn out was around 25% and in 2008 it was 23%.
I look at what is planned I think it would be a huge benefit to us in the region in preparation for a major disaster. I also see how it would improve responses times for many people in View Royal.
The old fire hall is in an an awkward location. The location at the top of the hill in "downtown" View Royal has major limitations. I have been there when they have been called out, the sight-lines for public and the firefighters are not good.
The building that was never designed to handle the demands of a community closing in on 10,000 people. Given that Victoria General is within the fire protection of View Royal, the municipality has to have the best emergency services in the region. The View Royal fire department is responsible for ensuring all of us have access to the main hospital in the region.
Since the current building will not survive and earthquake and that View Royal has known since 1993 this was the case, I am surprised View Royal has managed to get away without improving the existing building. It strikes me there is a lot of liability being carried by View Royal in the event of an earthquake. Should the fire hall fall down and there were no emergency services available, I think residents would have a good case to sue the town for their losses.
I can understand the reluctance of residents of View Royal to take on an additional $8,000,000 in debt. View Royal carries relatively little long term debt at the moment and would seem to be well placed to handle the debt for the new fire hall. As of 2009 it was only $90 per capita - Highlands had $254, Saanich $154, Colwood $485, and Victoria $603. Yes, the borrowing of $8 million would dramatically increase this by $850 per capita but that leaves in the same debt area as North Saanich, Langford and Sooke in 2009.
So if enough petitions are submitted, View Royal has to hold a referendum to borrow the money. Will people vote in favour? Hard to say how the vote will go but I think a no vote would put View Royal in a crisis because they have to do something about the current building and should have done so a decade or more ago.