Digital Town Hall Meeting Offers Answers on Fire Hall #1 Replacement
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 email@example.com
The digital townhall will be live streamed on the 250News facebook page, starting at 6 p.m.