The District of Peachland has initiated a public engagement process ahead of a fall referendum that will decide if the town proceeds with borrowing for the construction of a new fire hall.
The construction of a new fire hall is a key recommendation in the fire department master plan that was presented to council last fall by consulting agency Behr Integrated Solutions.
The public will have the opportunity to learn more about the proposed new fire hall at an information session scheduled for next week.
The existing fire hall is considered too small and currently the fire department has to restrict the size of its vehicles to fit inside.
This municipality owns a lot at San Clemente and 13th St. that has been designated as the site for a future fire hall and some draft plans have been drawn up, but a modified class C cost estimate is needed to facilitate a borrowing bylaw and referendum process as part of the 2022 civic elections.
At the last regular council meeting, fire chief Dennis Craig brought several recommendations to council on behalf of the fire hall Advisory Select Committee (ASC) regarding construction of the new fire hall.
The ASC was formed in January to provide council with recommendations regarding a new fire hall and associated fire protection services.
In his report to council, Craig noted that the ASC has since met several times and has concluded that Peachland Fire and Rescue Service critically requires a new fire hall to meet functional safety and operational requirements of the fire department, in addition to other factors.
“They do have a general consensus that the site location that has been proposed to them at the corner of 13th and San Clemente is the right site for a fire hall,” Craig told council.
In addition, the committee recommended that the town proceed with obtaining modified class C cost estimates for a new fire hall based on the conceptual draft floor plans presented at the May 24 regular council meeting and that council authorize a communication and engagement process that includes open houses to be held in June and September of this year.
The recommendations received unanimous council approval.
In his report to council, Craig said the ASC reached a general consensus that there should be provisions for the community policing operations within the new building. They also formed a consensus that the current site location, building size (18,000 sq-ft) and location does not lend itself to accommodate the ambulance operation as they understand the site option and the requirements.
But, said Craig, it is important to note the ASC has not had sufficient time to review and debate the revised draft floor plans (approximately 22,000 sq-ft) showing the addition of a single ambulance bay and accommodations.
He also noted that BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) have yet to communicate their minimum needs and requirements, which may impact the feasibility of incorporating BCEHS into the building.
Incorporating BCEHS and Peachland Community Policing will increase the required finished floor space of the building, and with the addition of users, fire department parking spaces will be impacted, it was stated.
“The plans that were presented in the agenda package and to the public are just there for functional requirements at this point in time,” Craig clarified. “They haven’t been presented to our development planning group as far as looking at those in great detail. They’re not part of a development permit application or anything like that at this point. They’re just strictly there to show functional requirements to get a general consensus on cost to move forward with a referendum. There are some partner organizations identified in those plans such as BCEHS. Again, we haven’t had in-depth discussions with that organization as to their exact needs so this isn’t their consensus on requirements or anything like that. This is just us looking at can or can we not include them, and what it would look like if they were included. But there is no commitment as of yet from both sides.”
If just the fire department alone were to occupy the building, they could be looking at around 18,000 sq-ft but if BCEHS and community policing were to be included, that would increase the size to approximately 22,000 sq-ft.
On behalf of the advisory council Craig asked council how they should move forward with how the building is presented.
“Do we show BC Ambulance in this building moving forward from here on out or do we look at a fire hall protective services building at this point with space allocations for everything, but not actually labeled BC Ambulance?” asked Craig.
While council discussed the issue, no resolution came forward to offer direction at this point.
Mayor Cindy Fortin acknowledged she’s been “the squeaky wheel about the ambulance being in there.”
She said it would be a mistake not to include them in this new building.
Coun. Patrick Van Minsel asked if there had been any discussion about BC Ambulance contributing to the capital costs of the building.
Craig confirmed there had not been, but suggested if they were part owners it would make things more difficult if the arrangement were to change in the future.
“It will cost us more money including them. Make no mistake about that,” said Van Minsel. “It will be two or three million more in my estimate, but that’s fine. I do think that it is a logical thing to put them there, together with the policing so everything is next to each other.”
Coun. Pam Cunningham said she also likes the idea of the ambulances and the fire trucks together.
“I’d like to see something happening soon-ish,” said Cunningham. “We’ve been talking about it for eight years.”
“The window is closing on us and we need to get on with it. My belief is we should maximize the entire building lot that we have and we should build for the future,” said Coun. Terry Condon. “We are going to grow and I believe our growth will come quite rapidly, not in the next few years, but in the few years after that.”
Coun. Keith Fielding said he agrees with the idea of maximizing the size of the building on the lot and leaving it as a future question whether or not the ambulance and community policing are actually included in the design.
An update on progress is expected to be presented to council in July.
Meanwhile, a drop in public information session about the protective services building referendum has been scheduled for June 16 from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Peachland Fire Hall, located at 4401 3rd Street.