For the Record
8th EDITION: UPDATED Dec 06, 2017
We are committed to providing factual responses to questions from our citizens that we have received through email, phone, in-person, and that have been posted on social media regarding the proposed Fire Hall project and referendum for borrowing. This document will continue to be updated, with answers to questions posed by Creston residents, in the weeks leading up to the referendum for borrowing. If you have a question that you want answered, send us an email to Info@creston.ca, or message us on our Town of Creston Facebook page.
Q. How will the cost of this project impact my taxes?
Nov. 27, 2017 – The infographic below has been mailed out to all Town of Creston residents which details the MAXIMUM impact for borrowing to the total property tax bill if the referendum is successful. This analysis is based on borrowing $6.1 million. $800,000 would be fully debt serviced by BC Ambulance if they chose to participate and would have no impact on municipal taxation. This leaves $5.3 million, $3.82 million of which would impact Creston’s share of the borrowing. $1.48M will come from Fire Protection Contract Areas (based on continued contract services).
Oct.19, 2017 Edited Nov. 27, 2017 – To further expand upon the information provided on Oct. 13, 19:
The Town of Creston is asking its citizenry to authorize borrowing a maximum of $6.1 million for this project that may include both the Fire Department and BC Ambulance as occupants.
$5.3 million has been confirmed as the maximum amount for the Fire Hall portion of the project. The amount of $5.3 million has been established by a detailed analysis of the space needs for a new Fire Hall. The amount of $5.3 million is expected to be reduced by $1.48 million for our contract areas (leaving $3.82M as our share of the borrowing), and may be reduced further by grants, donations, and the sale/lease of the existing Fire Hall but we can’t pursue these options until after the community has authorized us to proceed with borrowing for a new Fire Hall and detailed design of the building is completed. In other words, we may not need to borrow the entire amount – it’s a maximum amount with potential for reduction.
The Province requires us to go to referendum on the total borrowing amount of $6.1 million – not just the portion of the borrowing that will impact municipal taxation. Borrowing $5.3 million (at an interest rate of 3.31%) requires a 2.93% increase on the total tax bill. The Province recommended us to calculate borrowing costs at an interest rate of 3.31% for the purposes of the referendum. The actual cost will be based on AAA Market Rates at the time of borrowing (which are the best rates available). The proposed tax increase is dependent on offsetting $1.48M revenue from rural areas that receive fire service from the Town of Creston and who don’t have their own Fire Hall – Erickson, Arrow Creek and portions of the Creston Flats.
The infographic below details the debt servicing on maximum borrowing for the proposed new Fire Hall:
It’s important to note that the total tax bill includes more than just municipal taxation. Municipal taxation represents 45% of the total tax bill. Borrowing $5.3 million (at an interest rate of 3.31%) requires a 6.52% increase on the municipal portion of the total tax bill. This would be a one-time increase for one-time borrowing, and this 6.52% increase would be split between 2018 and 2019 – phasing in the increase over a two-year period. Business taxes will increase by the same percentages as residential.
This is what this increase looks like when it’s broken down to a monthly or daily expense:
Oct.13, 2017 - The Province requires that we calculate a 3.31% interest rate for the maximum borrowing amount. Based on this interest rate, and a 20 year amortization, the potential tax impacts to residents in the Town of Creston are as follows: A $200,000 home would see an increase (over 2017 taxation) of $74.35 annually or approximately $0.20 per day, a $300,000 home would see an increase (over 2017 taxation) of $111.52 annually or approximately $0.31 per day, a $400,000 home would see an increase (over 2017 taxation) of $148.69 annually or approximately $0.41 per day. The maximum taxation increase to a Creston household for borrowing for this project (over 2017 taxation levels) would be less than a cup of coffee per day.
Note – this taxation impact analysis is based on revenue currently received from fire protection services that the Town of Creston provides to Erickson, Arrow Creek and portions of the Creston Flats.
Nov. 6, 2017 – To estimate what your specific annual residential tax increase would be, use this formula:
0.37453 x Assessed Value ÷ 1,000
Q. How would a new Fire Hall affect commercial property taxes?
Oct. 27, 2017 – If the public gives the green light at the referendum for borrowing, annual municipal property taxes will increase for commercial property by the same percentage as residential property taxes (estimated 6.52%). Commercial properties in Creston are currently taxed at 1.84 times the rate of residential properties, based on assessed values. In 2017, a $300,000 residential property pays $1723 in annual municipal taxes, while a $310,000 commercial property pays $3170 in annual municipal taxes (commercial properties get an automatic $10,000 exemption). See below:
Nov. 6, 2017 – To estimate what your specific annual commercial tax increase would be, use this formula:
(Assessed Value – 10,000) x 0.37453 x 1.84 ÷ 1,000
Q. Why do we need a new Fire Hall?
Oct.13, 2017 - The health and safety of our fire fighters is compromised as a result of deficiencies in the existing Fire Hall (see points below for more detail).
Public safety is a core element of our Council’s value set. Council has recognized that a safe community is a livable and prosperous community. One of the decisions that Council has made in support of this priority includes the decision to have our local fire department provide “first responder services”, meaning Creston Fire and Rescue also responds to medical emergencies in our community. This has resulted in a 100% increase in calls for help over the past three years. We’ve also expanded our service area to service a region more than twice the size of what it was only a few years ago.
We need the Fire Hall to be functional in the event of a natural disaster such as an extreme wind storm, snow loading, seismic activity, or wildfire (current Fire Hall has a tar and gravel roof with openings). Importantly, the current facility is not constructed to meet Post Disaster Standards, nor does it meet regulations for fire safety, which means that the building is noncompliant with the BC Building Code (BCBC).
‘Post Disaster’ means that a building is designed to meet 1.5 times the forces that a standard building would be required to meet the BCBC.
The current Fire Hall has not been adequate for the Town’s needs for more than 10 years. The fire department moved into the current location, a 1950s converted grocery store, in the early 1980s, when our department had less than 20 volunteers compared to our current membership of 38+ volunteers. This increase in resources, the area we service and calls has resulted in the need for more training, support and space for our local firefighters who keep us safe. We are so lucky to have community members willing to take hundreds of hours away from their families and jobs to answer calls for help from throughout the Valley.
The site size is inadequate to provide for a renovation that corrects the above deficiencies.
Q. How do the deficiencies in the existing Fire Hall compromise the health and safety of our fire fighters? (Note – yes, our fire fighters are aware of the following information and they still choose to serve our community!)
Air quality in the existing fire station is compromised from diesel exhaust particulates, which are identified cancer causing carcinogens. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), whose primary goal is to identify causes of cancer. IARC classifies diesel engine exhaust as “carcinogenic to humans,” based on sufficient evidence that it is linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. IARC also notes that there is “some evidence of a positive association” between diesel exhaust and bladder cancer.
The existing Fire Hall lacks adequate space for the required decontamination process and is essential to the health of our fire fighters. In contrast to almost every other workforce where occupational controls in the last 40 years have reduced exposures, firefighters continue to be exposed to high levels of carcinogens in smoke because fire suppression and overhaul activities occur in uncontrolled, hazardous environments. Firefighters at structural and vehicle fires are exposed to harmful carcinogens such as hydrogen cyanide, benzenes, arsenics and complex hydrocarbons. Even at training fires with common wood burning there are exposures to soot and hydrogen cyanide. Other hazardous materials firefighters are potentially exposed to at fires are lead, mercury, asbestos and silica. Smoke has become more complex, rather than less, due to the increased number of synthetic products in homes and businesses.
Both of the risks detailed above are identified by WorkSafeBC occupational health and safety regulations as responsibilities for the Employer to manage.
Q. Why not use the existing Fire Hall and improve things there?
Oct.13, 2017 - While improvements could be made to extend the life and use of the existing building, it is estimated that these costs would be $2 million - $2.5 million. Importantly the approach of remodeling the existing Fire Hall, while cheaper in the short term, would not achieve a long term solution for the department’s future; likely requiring additional significant financial investments as the department grows over the years. Conversely, the current proposal of a new Fire Hall is being designed as a building that would meet the needs of the fire department and the community for the next 50 years
It should be noted that even with improvements to the existing building, we can’t address the fact that the site is just too small. Our current site is 0.6 acres and the recommended standard for a new Fire Hall site for a community our size is a minimum of 1.5 acres. The existing small site provides inadequate onsite parking for both fire fighters and BC Ambulance staff.
Additionally, while there would be improvements to post disaster construction, a retrofit of this 1950’s building could not meet all current Post Disaster Standards.
Most importantly, a significant renovation to address the existing deficiencies would render the existing Fire Hall inoperable for the period of construction, potentially up to a year.
In order to make such extensive renovations a place to house the current department and vehicles would need to be provided which is a costly extra to the project because of the security aspect, the size of the location needed and the relocation of required equipment for 911 / fire dispatch communications.
Q. How much will a new Fire Hall actually cost?
Oct.13, 2017 - The Town of Creston is proposing a maximum borrowing amount of $5.3 million for a new Fire Hall including land purchase. Importantly, there are opportunities to reduce the actual borrowing required through limited grants (specific to Fire Halls), but these limited opportunities require detailed design of the Fire Hall to be completed (a process that would occur after a successful referendum).
For example, Qualicum Beach secured an energy efficiency grant for their new Fire Hall in the amount of approximately $460,000 (a project of similar size and scope). So while the actual borrowing amount required for construction of the Fire Hall may be less than $5.3 million, we have to assume a maximum amount for the purposes of the referendum for borrowing.
Council may also choose to generate a revenue stream with the sale or lease of the existing Fire Hall in order to reduce the actual borrowing costs of a new Fire Hall. Again, these kinds of options cannot be pursued until we know for sure that a maximum amount for borrowing has been approved by the community and that we’re proceeding with a new Fire Hall.
Q. Beyond space limitations, what are the main concerns with the existing Creston Fire Hall?
There is no separate storage area for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is a health hazard for firefighters
- Ventilation is inadequate, resulting in increased health risks
- The apparatus bays have limited physical space, creating safety and operational hazards as the crews move through the space
- The building does not meet Post Disaster Construction Standards and is not seismically compliant with the current BC Building Code
- There is limited parking – emergency responders require parking close to the hall for quick response time to emergency events
- Fire separation between the apparatus bays and the remainder of the building is compromised with large penetrations for ducting
- There are not enough washroom and shower facilities for firefighters – this represents a problem for decontamination and the health of both the firefighters and their families (harmful contaminants can be inadvertently transferred to personal clothing, vehicles and homes without a proper decontamination process)
- WorkSafeBC and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations require safe handling of soiled PPE to protect workers – there are no facilities in the existing Fire Hall to address this condition.
Q. How would a new Fire Hall help protect fire fighters from cancer causing (carcinogenic) exposures?
- A new and modern fire station will help protect firefighters from carcinogenic exposures by:
- Providing for primary decontamination in a safe location at the Fire Hall
- Providing for a secondary decontamination to remove contaminations from skin
- Providing for a final decontamination(shower) in a clean space not cross contaminated
- Providing space for street clothing lockers for each firefighter in a clean space to dress, after the final decontamination shower (a WorkSafeBC Occupational Health & Safety regulation)
- Providing air quality systems specifically designed to capture the majority of diesel exhaust at the apparatus and prevent limited exhaust into the air inside the building
- Providing clean space (outside of apparatus bays) that is positively pressurized to ensure that air from inside apparatus bays does not come into clean work areas
- Providing appropriate washing facilities for personal protective equipment (firefighter gear) as per manufacturer’s recommendations to remove carcinogens, such as hydrogen cyanide
- Providing space for personal protective equipment storage that is ventilated to the outside of the building, preventing gear from being exposed to diesel exhausts prior to being worn. Further, any contaminants that potentially remain on the gear, even after washing, would be off gassed in this ventilated space.
Q. Who can vote in the upcoming referendum for borrowing for the proposed Fire Hall, scheduled for December 9, 2017?
October 25, 2017 - If you meet all of the elector qualifications for resident electors or non-resident property electors, you can vote at the upcoming municipal referendum for borrowing. The following are Provincial regulations for elector registration eligibility:
|Age 18 or older||Age 18 or older|
|A Canadian citizen||A Canadian citizen|
|A resident of BC for at least 6 months immediately before the day of registering to vote||A resident of BC for at least 6 months immediately before the day of registering to vote|
|A resident of the Town of Creston for at least 30 days immediately before the day of registering to vote||A registered owner of real property in the Town of Creston for at least 30 days immediately before the day of registering to vote|
|Not disqualified by any enactment from voting in an election or otherwise disqualified by law||Not entitled to register as a resident elector|
|Not disqualified by any enactment from voting in an election or otherwise disqualified by law|
|If there is more than one registered owner of the property, only one of those individuals may, with the written consent of the majority of the owners, register as a non-resident property elector|
You CAN vote in the upcoming referendum for borrowing IF …
- You OWN a house in the Town of Creston (and you meet the elector qualifications)
- You RENT a house in the Town of Creston (and you meet the elector qualifications)
- You live outside of Town but OWN property located within Town boundaries (and you meet the elector qualifications)
You CANNOT vote in the upcoming referendum for borrowing IF …
- You live outside of Town in a rural area that receives fire protection services from the Town of Creston (you must be a resident or non-resident property elector and meet the elector qualifications).
- You own a business in Town but don’t own the property that you operate your business from (you cannot vote as the Province deleted the “corporate vote” over 20 years ago).
- You live outside of Town and own property located within Town boundaries which is registered in a company/corporate name (you cannot vote as the property is not registered in a personal name and the Province deleted the “corporate vote” over 20 years ago).
PLEASE NOTE that if you are eligible to vote but your name doesn’t appear on the voters’ list, you are able to register up until November 16, 2017. If you are unable to register your name on the voters’ list, you can still register when you come to vote, providing that you have the proper documentation and meet all the elector qualifications. ALL voters must prove their identity and residential address before voting. See www.elections.bc.ca/voting/voter-id for more information about acceptable identification.
If you are unsure if you are a registered Town of Creston voter or would like register, please contact Donna Cassel at Town Hall (250) 428-2214 ext. 233.
Q. Why is the referendum scheduled for December 9, 2017? Can’t we wait until the next municipal election on October 20, 2018?
Oct. 13, 2017(updated Oct. 23, 2017) - Timing for a referendum on any topic can be challenging to select. In the summer months, a portion of our citizens are on vacation, while in the winter months a portion of our citizens head for warmer climates. As local government elections are mandated to be held every four years in the Fall, the Town of Creston is taking a similar approach to timing with this referendum. As with an election, two advanced voting days, a special voting opportunity (care homes, hospital) and mail-in voting will be available to accommodate those who will not physically be in town or able to attend on the day of the referendum, scheduled for December 9, 2017.
It should also be noted that the decision was made by Council to separate the referendum from the election because of the magnitude of both these democratic processes. The referendum question by itself is a major decision for the community, as is electing a Council for a four year term. By separating the issues between 2017 and 2018, the community can focus on one major issue at a time, based on factual information. We believe that our community deserves the opportunity to consider two such significant decisions separately.
There has been some concern expressed that holding the referendum for borrowing on December 9, 2017 does not allow for enough time to make an informed decision regarding borrowing for the proposed new Fire Hall.
Here are two matters for consideration:
In a general municipal election, the campaign period is 29 days (meaning that after the candidates have been declared, voters have just 29 days before Election Day to choose their Mayor and Council). See http://elections.bc.ca/political-participants/local-elections-campaign-financing/general-local-elections/ for details.
From September 8, 2016 to date, the Town of Creston has conducted the following public communication regarding the proposed new Fire Hall:
- Multiple articles, ads and mentions in the Creston Valley Advance, the Town of Creston website and ILoveCreston magazine beginning September 2016
- Four Days of Open Houses - September 9/10, 2016, November 29, 2016, April 8, 2017 and two more on October 22, 2017
- An online survey which began circulation in the Fall of 2016
- Weekly, detailed informational articles published in the Creston Valley Advance beginning September 2017
- Additional articles in the Advance and the ILoveCreston magazine since September 2017
The creation of “For The Record” on the Town of Creston website which contains answers to questions that we have received from the public (continually added to as new questions are received)
Even if someone was not aware of the extensive public consultation that has taken place to date and just became aware of this information, there is still more time to make a decision in this referendum than there is when voting in a municipal election.
The Fire Hall and the need to correct deficiencies has been an issue that Council has been considering since 2012. This current Council chose to engage the public in a more than year-long engagement process, commencing September 2016, in order to provide the public with a knowledge base upon which they are able to make an informed decision at the referendum for borrowing.
Q. When is the referendum for borrowing?
Nov. 3, 2017 – Confirmation has been received from the Province and General Voting Day, with respect to Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 1861, has been set for Saturday, December 9, 2017.
General Voting Day will be open to qualified electors of the Town of Creston between the hours of 8:00 am – 8:00 pm at the Creston & District Community Complex (Rec Centre), 312-19th Ave. North.
Advance Voting will be open at Creston Town Hall in Council Chambers, 238-10th Ave. North between the hours of 8:00 am – 8:00 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 22 and Wednesday, Nov. 29.
Special Voting Opportunities will be open on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at Swan Valley Lodge between 10:30 am – 11:30 am; Crestview Village between 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm; and, Creston Valley Hospital between 2:30 – 3:30 pm. Only qualified electors who are patients or staff at the time of voting may vote at this special voting opportunity.
Curbside voting: Where a request is made to the Chief Election Officer and/or one of the Deputy Election Officer(s) for a mobile voting station to be brought outside the place of voting, so that a person who has a physical disability or whose mobility is impaired to the extent that they cannot physically enter the place of voting, can vote from their vehicle. Curbside voting will be available on Advance Voting Days at Town Hall and on General Voting Day at the Creston & District Community Complex, from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm.
Q. What will the referendum question be?
Oct.13, 2017 - The following is the draft referendum question (subject to refinement prior to referendum date) to which the citizens of Creston will vote YES or NO.
Are you in favour of the Town of Creston adopting “Protective Services Building Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 1861, 2017” authorizing Council to borrow for the development and construction of a new Fire Hall ($5,300,000), with the potential inclusion of additional space for the BC Ambulance Service ($800,000) as long as the BC Ambulance Service will fully pay its share of the debt servicing costs, for a total sum not exceeding six million one hundred thousand dollars ($6,100,000) repayable over a period of no more than twenty (20) years?
Q. Where does the amount of $6.1 million proposed for borrowing in the draft referendum question come from?
Oct.13, 2017 - The Town of Creston is currently negotiating with the Province of BC to include space for the BC Ambulance Service in the proposed Fire Hall project. If the Province wishes to participate in the project, they will fund their own debt servicing for the required space (estimated value of $800,000). The maximum borrowing amount for the Town would then be $6.1 million. Municipal taxation dollars will only be required for the maximum borrowing amount of $5.3 million for the Fire Hall portion of the building, less any grants or other funding sources that are secured.
Q. Has the $5.3 million been included in the Town of Creston’s Five Year Financial Plan?
Oct.13, 2017 - For the past two years, the amount of $5.4 million has been included in the Town of Creston’s Five Year Financial Plan, a public document available at www.creston.ca and presented in the municipal budget process annually.
It should be noted that the Province required proof of the project and associated cost to be included in the Town’s Five Year Financial Plan prior to approving the borrowing bylaw; a bylaw that is required to hold a referendum.
Q. Does the $5.3 million include the cost of purchasing the land? How much is the land?
Oct.13, 2017 - Yes, the maximum borrowing amount of $5.3 million includes the purchase price of the land. Purchase price of the land is currently under negotiation but will not exceed fair current market value, as determined by a certified commercial land appraiser. The land acquisition process will be finalized if a successful referendum vote for borrowing is approved by the community.
Q. How has the Town communicated with the public about the proposed Fire Hall project to date?
Nov. 14, 2017 – Information packages regarding the referendum for borrowing were mailed out to all Town of Creston mailboxes on November 9, 2017. There will be two presentations by Kim Johnston of Johnston Davidson Architecture and Planning at the Creston & District Community Complex on Thursday, November 16 from 2 – 4 PM and again from 6 – 8 PM to provide residents with the opportunity to ask questions and see the project boards to date.
- Four days of Open Houses – September 9/10, 2016, November 29, 2016, April 8, 2017 and October 22, 2017
- An online survey circulated in Fall of 2016
- Multiple articles, ads, and mentions in ILoveCreston magazine and the Creston Valley Advance beginning September 2016
- Weekly, detailed informational articles published in the Creston Valley Advance beginning September 2017
- Numerous Facebook & Twitter posts to share upcoming Open Houses, important dates, and new information as it becomes available
- The creation of “For The Record” on the Town of Creston website which contains answers to questions that we have received from the public (continually added to as new questions are received)
- Direct mailing of information packages to residents planned for early Nov 2017
Q. What will be done with the existing Fire Hall and property if the referendum for borrowing is successful and a new Fire Hall is built? Will the property be sold to pay off the borrowing debt?
Nov. 15, 2017 – At the November 14, 2017 regular Council meeting, the following resolution was passed: “THAT Council, subsequent to determination of elector assent at the December 9th Borrowing Referendum, resolves to explore options with respect to the future disposition of the current Fire Hall building, including but not necessarily limited to the sale or lease of the buildings and property; AND FURTHER, THAT public input with respect to the future disposition of the current Fire Hall building and property located at 200-10th Avenue North be sought following a successful Referendum on December 9th, 2017 for Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 1861, 207, through such methods as public information sessions and/or surveys, to establish public preference prior to the receipt of Council’s final direction on the property’s use/disposition.”
Nov. 3, 2017 (updated for clarification Nov, 10) – Council is considering options for what to do with the existing Fire Hall if the referendum for borrowing is successful. There will be opportunities for public input prior to any decision made, to ensure the best possible outcome for our community. Any sale or lease of the existing Fire Hall would go towards reducing taxation.
Q. When the Highway 3 realignment proceeds, how would a Fire Hall fronting an arterial route impact response time and safety?
Oct. 20, 2017 – Having a Fire Hall on the highway would actually reduce (improve) response times, due to not having to navigate secondary streets to get to the highway from the Fire Hall.
Q. Why was the area next to the police station put on the plans for a future Fire Hall in previous plans?
Oct. 20, 2017 – The area next to the RCMP building on Cedar Street was not formally identified in the previous Official Community Plan (OCP) as a place for a future Fire Hall. Please see Bylaw 1532, 2001 for further information. The relevant map is provided below which shows the RCMP building, the Chamber of Commerce and the Ambulance Service in the subject area.
Q. Will ongoing maintenance/operational costs increase?
Oct.13, 2017 - The project consultants have advised that we can plan for no increase in operational costs as a new Fire Hall would be built to be energy efficient (reducing heating and cooling costs significantly per square foot). Further, they have advised maintenance costs would be reduced as the building would be brand new.
Q. If the existing Fire Hall doesn’t meet Building Code requirements, why hasn’t it been shut down?
Oct.13, 2017 - Many buildings in the community do not meet the current BC Building Code, and can continue being occupied until they undertake major renovations, in which case they are required to become compliant with the current BC Building Code. Renovations to address the many deficiencies in the existing Fire Hall would trigger this requirement.
For example, the entire north wall between the Fire Hall and the courthouse would be required to be removed and replaced with a masonry fire wall as the Fire Hall was built on the property line (zero lot line). In addition, the internal structure that supports the roof would have to be replaced, including concrete pads and footings. After all, this is a converted 1950’s grocery store that we’re working with which was built prior to any provincial building codes.
Q. If the building doesn’t meet Building Code requirements how can it be used or sold to someone else?
Oct.13, 2017 - BC Building Code, Fire Code and WorkSafeBC BC requirements within a building vary significantly depending on the occupancy type (use). For example, if the building is not used as a Fire Hall with fire trucks stored inside then improvements to the floor drains, exhaust systems and the decontamination processes would not be required. If the building was renovated for another purpose, it is also likely that costly upgrading to meet Post Disaster Construction Standards would not apply.
Q. Has the current Fire Hall been condemned by WorkSafe BC?
Oct. 27, 2017 – Absolutely not – the Town has never stated this. What has been said is that the existing Fire Hall doesn’t comply with a number of WorkSafeBC regulations, especially those relating to air quality and decontamination. Two risks result from this lack of compliance:
1. A lack of compliance with these regulations potentially puts the long term health of our fire fighters at risk rather than presenting immediate risk of injury or death, the latter of which would result in written orders from WorkSafeBC.
2. A risk exists for future WorkSafeBC claims being made as a result of worker injury or illness that can be linked to conditions in the work place, specifically exposures resulting from inadequate air exchange/ventilation or an inadequate decontamination process.
For a detailed summation of the WorkSafe BC Occupational Health and Safety regulations that the current Fire Hall does not meet, please contact Town Hall by emailing email@example.com.
Q. Why not use the site located immediately adjacent to the RCMP station that the Town already owns?
Oct.13, 2017 (updated Oct.20, 2017) - The short answer is: inadequate size and significant site development costs. This location was evaluated by the project team in a thorough siting study along with three other vacant properties. The reason this site was not selected was because:
It is not large enough to accommodate a Fire Hall and the associated required parking, especially if shared with BC Ambulance, without closing Cedar Street.
Fortis estimated upwards of $200,000 for moving the underground utilities (Fortis power lines run underground to the adjacent substation which cannot be built upon). Additionally, Fortis noted that this cost could increase by an additional $100,000 if an underground vault was required.
Impact to the surrounding residential neighborhood from noise generated from the fire department fleet.
Proximity to the rail crossing would require installation of crossing arms (CP Rail estimated a cost of $140,000).
Oct.18, 2017 - Closing Cedar Street would result in an additional estimated cost of $100,000 for road decommissioning and the construction of a new cul-de-sac.
Oct.20, 2017 - Closing Cedar Street would result in only one railway crossing (Erickson Rd.) on the south side of Creston
Oct.20, 2017 - In addition to site size limitations, leaving Cedar Street open, putting the building on only the land directly adjacent to the RCMP and allowing parking for firefighters next to Millennium park, would present risks to response times and personal safety of firefighters crossing the road at night and in heavy snow or freezing conditions.
Q. I heard that Crossfield, Alberta built a Fire Hall and it didn’t cost the taxpayers anything, is that true?
Oct.13, 2017 - It was brought to our attention that there was a perception that the community of Crossfield Alberta built a Fire Hall and “it didn’t cost the tax payers anything”.
We reached out to the Fire Chief in Crossfield, AB, a community of approximately 2900 people, to understand their Fire Hall project. The Crossfield Fire Chief advised that Crossfield added a 5000 square foot addition (not a whole new building) to their existing fire station for a cost of $1.6 million, which was paid for from the municipal capital reserves (tax dollars). They also received a grant from the Province of Alberta for $250,000 to assist in the project. Since Crossfield had $1.6 million of taxpayer funds in capital reserves, this project was tax neutral (no taxation increase was required and neither was borrowing). $1.6 million for 5000 square feet of new space is the same cost which is anticipated for the proposed Fire Hall in Creston (approx. $320/square foot).
Q. How do Creston taxes per capita compare to other similar municipalities around the Province?
Oct.18, 2017 – Of the 161 municipalities in BC, there are 35 municipalities with a population similar to Creston between 5000 and 15,000 people who also pay for municipal policing like we do in Creston. Taxation for municipal policing is close to $1 million per year. Of the 35 municipalities with policing costs and comparable populations, 77% of them pay more taxes per capita than Creston does. In other words, 27 of the 35 municipalities tax more per capita than Creston does.
Q. Why is the Town of Creston proposing to buy a commercial lot that currently generates taxes for the Town of Creston? If you exempt the subject land from commercial taxation by building a Fire Hall, how much commercial taxation would be lost?
Oct. 27, 2017 - Based on the assessed land value, approximately $554,000.00 for half of the entire Extra Foods site, the Town of Creston would no longer collect applicable municipal taxes (general municipal and RCMP) in the amount of $5900.00. This is a reduction from the Town of Creston’s total commercial taxation of $737,304.00 - overall, a reduction of 0.79%.
Q. Is the proposed Cook Street site designated as “commercial” in the Town of Creston’s 2017 Official Community Plan (OCP)? If a Fire Hall was to be built there, would an amendment to the OCP be required?
Oct. 27, 2017 – The proposed Cook Street site for a new Fire Hall is designated “Commercial – Downtown Core (CDC)”. However, an amendment to the 2017 OCP would not be required as “Fire Hall” is a land use that is permitted in any zone (public service uses). See Zoning Bylaw 1123, pg. 10; Uses Permitted in All Zones.
Q. In a presentation from a representative of the “Committee for an Affordable Fire Hall” delegation at the Council meeting on October 24, 2017, it was stated that Council, *“raised utility rates by 100% over the last 3 years and propose to make garbage a separation function costing 8% ±”. Is this true?
*This is a direct quote from the speaker’s handwritten notes that he hand delivered to Town staff after his presentation. These notes form part of the record of the proceedings at the October 24, 2017 Council Meeting and are available for public inspection as are the minutes, once adopted by Council at their next meeting.
Oct. 27, 2017 – No, it is not true. As you can see, water rates have had a 0% increase over the last three years. Sewer rates have had an average increase of 16.61% over the last three years. Here is the water and sewer rate comparison for the Town of Creston from 2014 – 2017.
With regards to making garbage a separate function costing 8% ±, it needs to be understood that removing this charge from property taxation and switching it to a utility charge in most cases makes the switch both cost and revenue neutral - I.E. property taxation is being reduced and utility bills are proportionately being increased. This switch will happen in 2018 and was undertaken to address the inequity of having some taxpayers pay for a service who were not receiving it.
Q. Does the Town of Creston already have long-term borrowing debt? How much is it and how is it paid for?
Nov. 3, 2017 - At the end of 2016 the Town had long-term debt in the amount of $5,744,141. However, only a quarter of this amount is serviced with municipal taxation dollars or utility fees. In other words, more than 74% of the debt servicing has ZERO IMPACT on municipal taxation or user fees.
Municipal taxation and utility fees are used to pay $166,467 of the Town’s annual debt servicing. The remaining amount is paid for by other third party sources.
Let’s take a closer look:
(end of 2016)
|Capital Project||Year paid off ||Other Sources for Debt Servicing||Municipal Taxation Dollars or Utility Fees used for Debt Servicing|
|$265,583||RCMP Building||2018||RCMP pays $72,096 (53%) annually||$64,507 (47%) annually|
|$120,834||2010 Ferrara No. 1 fire engine replacement (not the ladder truck)||2020||n/a||$32,560 annually|
|$1,657,690||“Prepaid Capital Lease” (Fortis)||2023||Fortis pays the debt servicing in its entirety for the LILO “Lease in Lease out” transaction||$0|
|$2,000,000||“Prepaid Capital Lease – Inter-fund borrowing” (Fortis)||2023||Also part of the LILO agreement as per above.|
*There is actually net revenue for the LILO transactions which the Town has used to help fund downtown improvements and other Town projects
|$1,700,034||Waste Water Treatment Plant Bulk Volume Fermenter Cover and upgrades||2026|
|The Columbia Brewery pays 60.3% of this debt servicing through its sewer utility fees||The Town of Creston pays $69,400 with non-brewery utility fees annually|
Total long term debt
|Of the total annual debt servicing costs ($691,449), municipal taxation and non-brewery sewer utility fees are used in the amount of >>>>>>>>|| |
Did you know? The Province determines what maximum debt servicing the Town can carry. Currently, the Town of Creston has about $22 million of borrowing room available; $16 million in excess of the $6.1 million proposed for the new Fire Hall.
Q. Has the Town “saved up” for a new Fire Hall?
Nov. 14, 2017 - Saving for a key piece of infrastructure requires taxation increases, just as borrowing requires taxation increases. For most communities, there is a balancing act between the two approaches.
For the Town of Creston, our biggest hurdle with managing taxation increases came with the announcement that our population had exceeded 5000 in number. This meant that in 2012, our community became responsible for funding 70% of the policing costs that the RCMP assigned us; nearly a $1 million annual bill that we had to fund through municipal taxation. We did have the benefit of being able to phase in the cost over a 5-year period, using a $1.17 million policing reserve that had been saved for. The reality is that the cost of policing required a 36% increase in municipal taxation. With such a dramatic cost increase, Council chose to keep general municipal taxation increases to a minimum.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any savings contributed to our municipal reserves during this time. We currently have reserves in the approximate amount of $7.4 million. Some of these are general savings, while some are mandated savings. For example, the Province mandates us to put $240,000 per year towards the eventual replacement of our Waste Water Treatment Plant. This was a condition of our $4.8 million Build Canada Infrastructure grant that was received. So, while we have reserves, we don’t have a specific savings (reserve) account for a new Fire Hall.
If we don’t have all the savings we need for a new Fire Hall, our option is to borrow. The Province determines what maximum debt servicing the Town can carry. Currently, the Town of Creston has about $22 million of borrowing room available; $16 million in excess of the $6.1 million proposed for the new Fire Hall.
Financially, for a community of its size without a strong industry base, Creston sits with a blend of savings and debt servicing for borrowing. This isn’t so dissimilar from the way many households operate. How many of us are fortunate enough to purchase a home without requiring a mortgage? How many of us can manage to save for a new vehicle in its entirety without requiring a bank loan? Our philosophy has been to take a blended approach of saving and borrowing.
Our current Fire Hall, a 1950’s converted grocery store, has served our community well. It was certainly good value for the dollar. Now, our community is going to referendum to consider borrowing for a new Fire Hall – one that will serve as a safe workplace for our firefighters, that will remain functional in the event of a disaster, and is of an appropriate size to meet the needs of our Fire Department today and at least 50 years into the future.
Q. What infrastructure projects has the Town of Creston managed in the recent past? What have been the budgets for these projects and how much over/under initial budget estimates have these projects ended up costing (in % of initial estimates)?
Nov. 29, 2017 – Please see the table below which details the significant infrastructure projects that the Town of Creston has managed in the last seven years, under current staffing. Please note that there have also been a few other smaller projects (under $100,000) during this time frame, which were also all under budget (by an average of 17% under budget).
|Project||Budget||Actual Cost||% Over/ Under|
|2010 Asset Management Plan||$100,000||$75,000||25% Under|
|2012 Micro Surfacing Project||$237,000||$198,250.86||16% Under|
|2013 Waste Water Treatment Plant Upgrade||$7,210,000||$7,285,400||1.71% Over **|
|2014 Erickson Road Watermain||$380,000||$364,000||4.2% Under|
|2015 Pine Street Intersection||$638,000||$617,627||3.2% Under|
|2016 Railway Blvd Sidewalk||$110,000||$106,889||2.8% Under|
|2016 Road Restoration Project||$392,950||$385,350.00||1.9% Under|
** Despite a number of unexpected challenges such as a lagoon wall becoming undermined by muskrats, asbestos in an existing building, unexpected rock formation, water control issues and the environmental impact study, the project came in at 1.7% over budget that was paid for from the sewer reserve fund. Both the Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrade and the unexpected challenges encountered are distinctly different from the Fire Hall proposal of an existing new build which is not in a flood plain.
What is the difference between a budget and a Financial Plan?
Dec 6, 2017 - The Community Charter requires local governments to create 5 year Financial Plans annually. The first year of the 5 year Financial Plan is an annual detailed budget; an ANNUAL decision making outcome made by Council which addresses revenues and expenses for the upcoming year.
An annual budget includes detailed core revenues and expenses for services provided (e.g. labour and associated benefits, supplies, materials, on-going contracts, etc.); spends for capital projects (such as a new sidewalk); and, spends for single supplementals (one time projects such as a drainage study). Council must consider many things in establishing the annual budget, such as: setting tax rates for the current year, offsetting revenues, sustainable infrastructure, community well-being, savings (reserves), service levels and much more.
In contrast, the remaining four years of the 5 year Financial Plan are MID RANGE PROJECTIONS that show Council and the community what the potential financial impacts of proposed projects (expenses) will be on reserves; what will be required through taxation and other revenue streams; assumptions such as inflationary increases; and, much more. Projects identified in the Official Community Plan must also be included in the 5 year Financial Plan. For Creston, the 5 year Financial Plan includes water and sewer capital, a proposed Fire Hall, the construction of Market Park, a realignment of Highway 3 onto Cook Street and more. Importantly, the 5 Year Financial Plan shows projections for the remaining four years; not actual taxation increases as those adjustments are determined annually.
Each year, Council considers the projects included in the 5 year Financial Plan and amends the Plan accordingly based on: the timing of projects; the community’s ability to pay for a project; receipt of significant grants; impacts to taxation; additional offsetting revenues; and more. The 5 year Financial Plan is subject to change annually. For example if the proposed Highway 3 realignment doesn’t occur in 2021 (as the Financial Plan contemplates because the OCP speaks to it as a project desired by the community), this delayed timing would greatly reduce the property taxes that would be required. The same analogy would apply if the Town of Creston received a significant grant for a proposed project (such as Market Park) that wasn’t anticipated in the 5 year Financial Plan as an offsetting revenue for the project. Each budget year, Council can choose to implement, delay or remove projects which adjusts the 5 year Financial Plan, and resulting taxation.
The distinction between an ANNUAL budget and a 5 year Financial Plan (MID RANGE PROJECTIONS) is important to understand when considering impacts to taxation beyond the current year.
Are the Work Experience Placement (WEP) firefighters paid when they go out on Fire Department callouts?
Dec. 8, 2017 - Yes, the WEP are paid as per paid on call rates, the same as any local volunteer, when they respond to an incident. This compensation DOES NOT represent an increase in costs associated with an emergency response as a defined number of responders are required for any given incident. For greater clarity, the Town of Creston does not dispatch more responders simply because we have them available. What the WEP does is ensure that we have the MINIMUM number of emergency responders for an incident that are recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA); especially during the day time when meeting minimum numbers is a challenge (e.g. 13 responders is what is recommended for response to a residential structure fire). The WEP firefighters work a standard 40 hour work week in addition to being on call 24/7; exchanging salaries for work experience.
Would local trades be used in the construction of a new Fire Hall?
Nov. 27, 2017 - Under NWPTA (New West Partnership Trade Agreement), the Town of Creston (or any other local government) cannot select a service provider solely on the merit that they are local. However, being local inherently provides local contractors with competitive advantage when it comes to bidding – that is, they don’t need to include costs for mobilization/de-mobilization, accommodation and daily stipends in their service proposal costing.
In addition, the Town of Creston recognizes that use of wood as the primary building material has numerous benefits to the local economy:
- Local trades using familiar materials = savings and speed of the project
- Material is locally produced and manufactured and is therefore readily available
- More subtrades are available with knowledge of building with wood than any other material.