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October 27, 2017 3:27 pm

Digital Town Hall Meeting Offers Answers on Fire Hall #1 Replacement

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Mayor and staff  take  questions from members of the media – image courtesy  City of Prince George

Prince George, B.C.-The first of two  digital town hall meetings on   issues that  are the basis for a referendum this fall,  offered an opportunity  to  get some answers to  questions about  the proposal to replace Fire Hall #1.

250News readers had submitted  questions they wanted  asked,  and  most   wanted to know  why the location   on Massey Drive  was selected.

The answer has several  points, first and foremost the location   will  allow a 50% increase in the  area  where  Prince George  Fire Rescue can achieve an 8 minute response time.   That is critical to confining a fire to  the  room of  origin  and  to  reducing  the risk of injury or death .  Dave Mitchell, of Mitchell  and Associates Ltd,  says  the location will  improve response to  areas  on the east side of the Fraser River,  in particular the industrial  area .

Several sites were examined,   some  were privately owned, meaning the purchase price would  boost the cost of the project higher.  The City already owns the Massey Drive  property  which is the  site for  a new Fire Hall #1.

There will be a need to  make some changes to the roadway to  allow for left hand turns to the firehall, as well as the installation of  traffic lights,  but the City says those  changes,   estimated to cost $2 million,  are included in the  estimated $15 million dollar  cost of  the  entire project.

If electors  say  yes to replacing the aging  Fire Hall #1, the City would  be authorized to borrow no more than $15 million dollars.   Any cost over runs would have to come from reserves says City Manager Kathleen Soltis.  The cost of servicing that debt is about $1 million  a year,   representing a 1% increase in  municipal taxes,    which the City  says would amount to about $8.45 per $100 thousand dollars of assessment.   However,  those figures are  based on today’s preferred interest rates, and the money wouldn’t actually be needed until 2019 when construction  would be expected to start.  It’s also important to note that  the interest rate  at the time of borrowing would be locked in for 5 years,   and this would be a 20 year loan, so it is not  clear  on how much  that  debt servicing cost  would be  further down the road.

The new facility would have  an expanded Emergency Operations Centre,  5 bays for fire  vehicles,   in addition to having improved  space for  training, . improved   and expanded dispatch  centre  and  improved  services  to  reflect the addition of  women to the  department.

The existing  Fire Hall #1 is 61  years  old and  has numerous deficiencies,  including  electrical, inability to house larger  more modern equipment,  not  meeting current seismic  requirements  and cramped quarters to  name just a few.  The cost to upgrade  the existing facility is pegged at $8 million dollars,  but City Staff say,  you would still have  a building that is too small,  and  Fire Hall #1  would  not be able to  continue  being able to service the community during such a major  renovation.

City Staff  say  assessments of the other three firehalls  in the City  indicate   they are well positioned to serve the community for many more years, so  this is not a case of  replacing  Fire Hall #1  now,  and  needing to replace the others within  a decade or two.

This evening,  the second digital town hall will be  held  at 6 p.m.   Tonight’s session will focus on  questions about the Four Seasons Pool replacement project.   If you have questions  on that project, please email them to talk@250news.com

The  digital townhall will be  live streamed on  the 250News facebook page,  starting at 6 p.m.



Seems to me that they could renovate Hall No. 2 at 5th and Ospika, which already has room for the bigger ladder engine (Its presently at that location). There is space there for expansion for offices, etc; Response time would be (in my opinion) just as efficient as the response time from Masse to the East side of the Fraser River.

The present fire Hall No. 1 could then become No. 2 which would have sufficient space for the people and equipment working out of that facility.

This of course means maintaining the status quo, and spending less money. It also means that the space presently occupied by Hall No. 1 would not become available to the City.

Has the City looked at this option?????

    Good idea but will not be shiny and new.

    Pal, you make a very good case, but where will they put their long coveted PAC if they don’t tear down the firehall and pool?

    Be careful Palopu, you make too much sense and the voice of reason is often criticized or otherwise attacked!

    Seamutt, shiny and new is always the order of the day, when spending other people’s money! ;-)

    duffer, your comment regarding the PAC is probably far more accurate than many at City Hall would ever admit.

    Isn’t it so easy to tell them what to do…to bad you don’t know ant of the facts.

      Any of the facts either :)

    You should send all the routes you timed with the fire department for both locations.. I am sure they would appreciate the information.

    Reminds me of a. Seinfeld episode…lol

      P Val. Time to get out of your rocking chair and take a drive around the City. Do some timing yourself from the 7th avenue station to the BCR Industrial Site by using Queensway to 97 South. Then from Ospika and 5th to 97 South, and of course Masse to Highway 16 to 97 South and see what you come up with.

      Let us know what you come up with.

      I am not the one taking about response time… you are.. that why I am sure you have timed all the routes at different times of day etc to come up with your opinion.. so share them please .

    One justification of replacing versus renovating #1 was that it would be taken out of service throughout such a project. I assume the same would apply to #2 under your suggestion leaving #1, #3 & #4 to cover the city for what likely would be a minimum 1 to 2 year project. There also could be a lot more to it than simply scabbing on a couple of additions. I have no idea when #2 was built but it could be it doesn’t meet the sort of codes that a new #1 would have to meet.

      If you read the article you would note that the City says Hall’s 2,3,4 are good for years to come and state they would be good for a couple of decades.

      A addition on the South side of No. 2 for offices, storage, and any other space they may need could be done without closing this station.

      Its time that the City used whats inside their craniums and be more creative.

      All we ever get from the City is that the buildings are to old and cannot be repaired. They are not in the right place. They do not meet present day rules and regulations, and on and on it goes. Most of these are nothing but thinly disguised excuses so that they can go forward with whatever their real plan is.

      I suggest that if anyone has some leisure time they take a drive past Hall No. 2, 5th and Ospika and use your imagination to see if you could expand that station with little or no disruption.

    Based on this and previous discussions, it’s clear that we can all smell the BS a mile away. Whether it’s in the form of the project costs, need, location, reasoning or lack of information, it lends itself to a NO vote. Voting yes,but perpetuates the BS coming out of City Hall. We need to send this back to them, and tell them to do better. They work for us, not the other way around.

The existing fire hall is 61 years old and does no longer meet present requirements. It is basically worn out. Nothing lasts forever, so now there are valid reasons for a replacement. While the new fire hall is under construction the old one can still provide basic protection.

I want to know where the 15 million dollar figure comes from. Are the firemen looking for a palace like the police or should we be building something functional and affordable?

Is the proposed Massey location on the “200 year” flood plain? If so, then not a good choice. Interestingly enough is the comment that there is a savings as the Massey site is already City owned—whereas the proposed pool site is not City owned. I think a new pool should not be built where the City is proposing as the demolition costs are an large unknown factor.ie. asbestos. I believe this entire pool /firehall scenario is a precursor for a PAC in a flood plain.

The cost to taxpayers will be much higher than the misleading $50 million on the referendum ballot.The price tag – from what we know – is going to be over $76 million. We haven’t been told what the demolition costs will be, if there will be cost overruns (building won’t start until 2019, costs usually don’t go down), or an increase in debt servicing. The City’s reasoning doesn’t make sense. Putting the new hall on flood plain when one of the reasons for moving it is because it’s on flood plain is ridiculous. Improved response time? For who? You improve response time for one area, you decrease it in another. City Councilors and Admin, start being upfront and honest with the taxpayer – something sorely lacking with this bunch, and come back to us with a full accounting and something that makes sense.
This isn’t about whether we need a new hall or not, if part of this plan doesn’t make sense, or seems ridiculous then vote NO. We need to send the clear message to City Hall that we expect better.

    You are making some arguments! I am puzzled by the vagueness and obscurity of the information! Can we not have total clarity?

    “Any cost over runs would have to come from reserves says City Manager Kathleen Soltis… However, those figures are based on today’s (2017) preferred interest rates, and the money wouldn’t actually be needed until 2019 when construction would be expected to start.”

    If the construction is not going to start during next year – 2018 – why are we having a referendum now? It is premature, in my opinion! I also question why money could be taken from City reserves in case there are over runs! That means taxpayers are on the hook for more, for sure! Isn’t anybody ever going to be tough enough and determined enough to say: This is the budget, we are not kidding! Any over runs will be charged to the contractors! Get that signed first!

      Why spend money on design fees if it may fail on referendum?

      The overrun will happen when the lowest bid is higher than the estimate.

      The next possible overrun opportunity is when the City wants a change during construction.

      There are several possibilities for overruns which are beyond the contractor’s control.

      “Why spend money on design fees if it may fail on referendum?”

      It has certainly never stopped them in the past from having some fairly detailed conceptual drawings for every half baked plan for downtown redevelopment.

      You have posted examples of other BC communities building fireballs:) with everything PG is asking for with a price tag 40% less than the $15 million so a conceptual rendering might show the bells and whistles that the additional $6 million will get us—a lesson learned from the RCMP PAClice station.

    Why will the City not provide us with a map showing the response times boundaries in 2 minute increments with ALL fireballs in existing locations plus a second one with the proposed location(s)?

    Relatively simple with a GIS database.



So as the value of our real estate increase, will the rate $8.45/100k go down???? or are they banking on us not seeing thru this.

pretty courageous to say the others will likely not need replacing in another 10 t0 20 years. Pretty sure #2,3and 4 was built in the mid 70’s. So in 2037, they will be hitting the magic age of 60 as well. Just thinking out loud

    And they will be crying to replace City Hall about then too !

The 2016 AECOM report on the condition of civic facilities has identified $23 million in required work that needs to be done over the next decade to keep them at an acceptable standard.

Worse still they are $12 million behind in repairs that have been previously identified and should now either be completed or in progress.

Guess there is a better photo op at a ribbon cutting of a new building as opposed to when repairs are completed to ensure the lifespan of an existing building is more than 40 or 50 years.

    Somebody at the City obviously did not like that report.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Perhaps if all the halls weren’t outfitted with fancy gym equipment (better than local gym equipment), big screen tv’s and leather recliners…some money could be saved and put towards new building cost? Don’t forget, we’ve already been gouged paying for that “essential” equipment. Nothing but the best for them!

Wonder if fire fighting equipment has changed since 1962? Wonder if the firemans job has changed at all?

The amount of firefighting equipment has increased.. thus all must be stored in special areas to make sure it remains functional.. along with fire suppressing foam and it’s distribution system. Also fire is usually now the first on most scenes..again making the need for more equipment dealing with first aid etc…

55 yrs for a specialty building seems rather decent to me. But that’s just my opinion :)

    The Department uses a wide range of categories for different call types are shown in the following table, which shows the Department’s total response in the period from 2009 – 2014.

    Within this, a number of event types are showing a much more dramatic increase, some are showing relatively little change, while others are decreasing.

    Incident Count

    Medical 13,439
    Cancelled 7,454
    Fire Alarm 2,851
    Unspecified 2,434
    MVI 1,702
    Complaint 937
    Structure Fire 625
    Admin 548
    Open Air Fire 546
    Wildland 398
    False Alarm 374
    Incident not found 275
    Smoke Report 274
    CO Alarm 238
    Vehicle Fire 227
    Odour Unknown 212
    Gas Leak 156
    Hazmat 143
    Dumpster 105
    Patient Not Found 86
    Hydro Lines Down 75
    Notification 63
    Rescue 61
    Flooding 15
    Aircraft 11
    Bomb 11
    BBQ 9
    Structure Collapse 8
    Explosion 6
    Substation Fire 4
    911 Hang Up 1

    Grand Total 33,318

    Medical takes care of 1/3 of the calls.

    So, what has happened to ambulances over the decades?

      Easy answer.. sever cutbacks to ambulance budgets.

      Not that easy.

      It is called BC Ambulance.

      The other service is the PG Prince George Fire Rescue service.

      3 guesses who pays for what.

      To make it easy on you, The first 2 do not count.

      Unless PG gets a transfer payment from the province, it would be another example of downloading a provincial service to a municipality.

      Here is a document from 2 years ago regarding “downloading of ambulance service in the making”

      It includes a graph showing fires rescue per capita expenses for 2011 for cities over 35,000 population.
      There were 23 that fit that profile.
      West Vancouver was the highest at $300/resident
      Chilliwack was the lowest at about $65/per resident
      Prince George was the third highest at $200/resident.
      Only Delta was about $220/resident.
      7 were between $150 and $200
      11 were between $100 and $150/resident.

      The letter was sent from the Provincial President of Ambulance Paramedics of BC CUPE Local 873, a fight for loss of CUPE jobs.

      Of course, the other question that would be important for PG residents, is why is the cost per resident the third highest?

      We are about 25% higher than the median cost of the 23.

      As one example, The City of Peterborough, Ontario responded to about 1,800 medical calls in 2011.

      The population of Peterborough was 81,032 for the 2016 census. So, about 10% larger than PG. Yet PG has around 8 times the frequency of calls responded to by fire rescue.

      Why? Because they respond to every call? and are not need what percentage of the time?

      One would think that there there would be some better way of approaching this issue of duality of medical calls between the two services.

      Or, maybe we should institute a dual system for policing as well if the medical emergency response system works so well.


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