Q & A
*IMPORTANT MESSAGE* - read important background information about the Hornby Island fire hall project AAP in the January 2015 Newsletter [PDF - 139 KB].
Follow up letter to editor of First Edition:
Questions you have asked
Below is a list of questions we have received from Hornby Island residents and property owners, and answers we have provided.
Q) I did a Freedom of Information request from the CVRD and it states in the Fletcher Pettis letter of 2010 a revised cost estimate for a fire hall of over $2.5 million dollars, yet in 2015 you claim the cost is $1.9 million. How is this possible?
A) The 2010 Fletcher Pettis revised cost estimate letter provides a Class “D” (feasibility) estimate only which is not based on an actual design. The current project estimates, which are the basis for the referendum, are based on an actual design which was developed by the architect’s team following input from the community and the Hornby Island Fire Rescue design committee. The Fire Hall Renewal Select committee has reviewed the various design concepts and recommended changes and reductions in scope to achieve a maximum project budget of $1.9 million.
Q) What happens if the interest rate on the $1.6 million loan goes up to 5% or higher from year to year?
A) The current interest rate for a loan from the Municipal Finance Authority is around 3%. If the referendum passes, the CVRD will borrow $1.6 million from MFA with an interest rate that will be fixed for a term of 10 years. After the 10 years, the loan will be renewed at a fixed interest rate for a second 10 year term.
Q) What happens if the tender proposals come back over the $1.9 million dollar budget?
A) SUA Architects and the consultant team have committed to work with the users to meet the fire hall construction budget of $1.9 million.
Q) For fiscal 2016, the first year the $1.6 million borrowing ( if approved ) for the fire hall from Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) needs to be serviced fully , you anticipate the total charge to be $122,538 ( principle $57,498, interest $65,040 at a 4% lending and 3.5% actuarial rate for $1.626 million)? For that amount of debt servicing cost to be allowed by the MFA, the sustainable revenue through property tax requisition needs to be $490,000 ( only 25% of that may be allocated to debt servicing ). The 2015 requisition is $475,000 and was increased from $450,000 in 2014. Do you plan to raise the requisition again for 2016 to $490,000, associated with another tax increase?
A) The 2015-2019 adopted financial plan for the Hornby Island Fire Service shows a tax requisition of $475,000 for all five years. This requisition covers the costs of providing the fire protection service as well as the debt servicing costs for the borrowing component of the fire hall project. The five year 2015-2019 financial plan does not indicate a requisition increase in 2016.
As far as limitations on borrowing as a percentage of revenue, this is a municipality requirement and is not a regional district limitation. Regional districts are not limited in the annual cost for servicing regional district liabilities.
Q) Why was the 2014 –2018 plan to borrow $1.4 million and use $300,000 from the reserves abandoned?
A) The amount being funded from capital reserves for the fire hall construction was adjusted in the 2015-2019 financial plan to provide for other capital requirements in the 2015-2019 financial plan, specifically the decommissioning of the old fire hall planned in 2016 and the acquisition of a new rescue truck in 2018. Additionally, an adequate reserve balance is prudent in the event of an emergency repair or replacement of critical equipment as well as planning for asset management replacements in the five years beyond the 2015-2019 financial plan.
Q) I have received correspondence relating to a referendum to approve a $1.6 million loan to be taken out to fund the project. There seems to be plenty of information relating to the need for the project, all of which seems very reasonable. What are the implications for the Hornby Island tax payer?
A) Here is a summary review of the financial implications of the fire hall project: The CVRD is facilitating the project with input from the Hornby Island community to develop and construct a fire hall design that accommodates the needs of the firefighters and is endorsed by community residents. The process has been ongoing for almost two years with several community meetings and several months of design with the firefighters design committee, with size and features being trimmed to accommodate the community's sensitivity to tax increases.
In 2014, the Fire Hall Renewal Select Committee (comprised mostly of members of the Hornby Island community) set a maximum budget of $1.9 million for the construction cost of the building including site conditions. SUA Architects will work with the Hornby Island Fire Rescue (HIFR) Design Committee and the CVRD to ensure that the project is delivered on budget.
The current estimated construction cost for the new fire hall is $1.9 million. A $200,000 grant will come from the Community Works Fund, $100,000 from reserves, which leaves $1.6 million. Pending electoral assent by referendum, the CVRD board has approval to borrow $1.6 million from Municipal Finance Authroity to assist with the construction of the new fire hall on Hornby Island.
Borrowed funds will be paid back through tax requisition. Based on the $1.6 million loan estimate, the net increase to the tax levy over 2014, for the average Hornby Island residential property would be approximately $24 per year. Note the estimated increase in the tax levy is over 2014 figures.
Since 2012, the tax levy for fire services has increased and is being held in capital reserves in order to pay for the current pre-construction costs (design fees, community meetings and advertising, engineering reports, preconstruction coordinator), a second tanker truck for Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation (budgeted among of $180,000), emergency reserves for operations, and a budgeted amount for the decommission of the current fire hall should the referendum pass.
According to 2015 CVRD financial budget reports, the estimated debt repayment costs (interest and principal) for the $1.6 million loan (4% rate over term of 20 years) is $122,000 per year. Further to these reports, the portion of the fire services tax levy for an average property assessed at $455,000 that will go towards paying back these debt repayment costs is estimated to be approximately $120 per year.
Due to the second tanker truck being included in the reserves, it is important to look at the financial benefits of this second tanker truck or what is known as Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation (STSA). The HIFR will look to achieve STSA and then most homeowners on Hornby Island will get what is known as "Hydrant Protected Status" which means direct savings in their fire insurance premiums. We have received written quotes from two reputable insurance companies with significant savings - $300-$500 in savings annually (See hifd.org for copies of these letters). Other communities such as Gabriola Island, Errington, Salt Spring Island, and Central Saanich have achieved STSA and are realizing these savings already. At these figures, the savings may offset the annual tax levy increase. With the added tanker truck, even residents or homeowners without house insurance will receive a better chance of saving their home and contents in the event of a fire.
Q) Who would be fronting the loan?
A) The CVRD would finance the $1.6 million with the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia.
Q) Who would be signing for and paying back the loan?
A) The CVRD is the approving body and the debt servicing costs (debt payments) are paid by the service that they pertain to which in this case is the Hornby Island Fire Protection Service.
Q) At what interest is the loan?
A) Currently the rate on long term borrowing is 3.0%.
Q) Who would be in charge of the project?
A) The CVRD will be "in charge of the project" through the architects engaged for this effort.
Q) What would happen if the project is over budget?
A) If the project estimates are over the allotted funds, the design committee and the architect will adjust the design to accommodate the funds available.
Q) Would the Hornby Island resident taxes be increased if the project goes through?
A) Yes, there would be a tax increase of approximately $24 for an average residence for the Hornby Island fire protection service.
Q) If we have to go to referendum, is this cost coming out of the fire hall project monies? Or is it a regional district administrative cost?
A) If the Hornby Island fire hall project must proceed to referendum, the costs of the referendum will be funded by the Hornby Island fire protection service.
Q) “The building as planned is more than 8ft below the road…The driveway up to the main road will have a slope of 7%.....will require chains for vehicles to get out on the road. Given that this is a volunteer hall than the likelihood of having trucks prepared always in advance is not good. If the CVRD will not consider a design change then sure you are obligated to inform the public as to the risk attached to building as planned. (Abridged)
A) The civil engineering consultants for the project have indicated that the slopes are acceptable and will not impact the functionality of the fire hall. View the report received by the select committee on the proposed grades. With regards to the volunteer aspect of your question, the members of the fire department will continue to prepare for operations in inclement weather as they currently do.
Q) Why such a detailed amount of seismic requirements?
A) With regard to the detail amount of seismic requirement, the new fire hall would be built in accordance with the BC Building Code which is based on the latest seismic research, including probabilities. These standards protect fire department members as well as the approximate $1,000,000 worth of equipment they use in providing their volunteer community services.
Q) If you take the estimated increase of $24 and multiply it by the approximately 1000 properties, you get $24,000 received per year. Then multiply by 20 years (term of the loan) and you would get $480,000. This does not total or even come close to the same amount that would be borrowed to build the new fire hall. Please explain?
A) The approved 2012 through 2014 budgets for the fire protection service included increased contributions to the capital reserve to cover;
- The purchase of a second tanker truck required to achieve Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation (STSA) which may lower residential property insurance rates and,
- Fire hall pre-construction costs for such items as design, engineering, and public consultations
The estimated increase of $24 in 2015 is not specifically the debt servicing payment for fire hall construction, but rather, the net increase in the Hornby Island fire protection service over the 2014 taxation level.
Click the link to view the 2014-2018 financial plan for the Hornby Island fire protection service.
Click the link to view past financial plans for the Hornby Island fire protection service
Q) Could the design of the fire hall include rental accommodation?
A) No, the grant of land from the province is strictly for the purpose of a new fire hall only.
Q) Can the new fire hall have a commercial kitchen that the Hornby Island community could use?
A) It is planned that the kitchen will be built as required to feed firefighters and evacuees in the event of a large scale disaster. A commercial kitchen is not planned.
Q) What is the expected lifespan of the new fire hall?
A) The new fire hall would be designed to serve the community for 50 years or more.
Q. If the CVRD's data are reasonably accurate regarding the tax increase, and homeowners will save money through property insurance why are we dragging out the process and not just getting on with building the fire hall and receiving “tanker accreditation”? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. The decision on whether or not to proceed with the project requires an informed and forthright discussion prior to electoral assent. The public consultation process is very important in ensuring the views of the public are represented.
Q. Is the land acquired for the fire hall free? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
Q. How long is the $45 tax increase in effect? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. The tax increase attributed to the construction of the fire hall would be in effect for 25 years, which is the duration of the long-term loan for the cost of construction. (Of note; since the time that this question was originally asked the estimated net increase between 2014 and 2015 is estimated at $24 and the term of 20 years is being considered)
Q. How much will we save on our insurance costs? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. Depending on the insurance broker and the coverage purchased, with superior tanker shuttle accreditation you can expect to save between $300 and $500 dollars per year.
Q. How much tax does the average property owner pay on Hornby Island? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. The average residential property on Hornby Island, with an assessed value of $456,000, paid approximately $405 towards the Hornby Island fire department in 2012.
Q. What is the cost of a referendum? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. The cost of holding a referendum is estimated at $8000.
Q. Can the CVRD define what options would be for a $1 million fire hall compared to a $2 million and $3 million? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. As the public consultation process unfolds and the input and comments from the public is received, the design of the fire hall will reflect the views of the residents and property owners of Hornby Island.
Q. We need to remember that we not only have the cost of a new fire hall but the cost of a new tanker. How much will a new tanker cost? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. The cost of a new tanker truck is estimated at $170,000.
Q. Can we get volunteers to complete parts of the project to bring down costs?
A. Yes. Recognizing that WorkSafe regulations present a challenge, volunteer donations of labour or “in kind” may form part of the overall project plan.
Q. Has the land for a new fire hall been secured? (question recieved May 30, 2012)
A. Yes. An offer of tenure has been accepted for a one hectare parcel of land across Central Rd from the current fire hall. View the map of the secured fire hall site [PDF - 99 KB].
Q. At what point in the process will we explore other options beyond building a new $2 million dollar building? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. The select committee and the CVRD will gather input and comments from the residents and property owners of Hornby Island to assist in the design of a fire hall. The design of the fire hall will meet the needs of the fire department while representing an acceptable cost level and views of Hornby Island.
Q. How long has this process been going on?
A. The Hornby Island residents and ratepayers association (HIRRA) and the fire department had their first discussions regarding a possible new fire hall in 1997. Since that time, progressively more precise data have been gathered regarding the fire hall. For a brief background of the timeline to date, please see the July 26, 2012 View the presentation slides [PDF - 575 KB].
Q. Why not hold a referendum now? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. It is important that all aspects of the project be discussed and that all information is available to the residents and property owners that they may make an informed decision on whether or not to proceed with the project.
Q. What is the CVRD's role in this proposed project?
A. The CVRD will facilitate the community discussion and design input. If the community wishes to proceed, the CVRD will contract and administer the construction of a new fire hall.
Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation
Q. What options can we explore to start saving now before paying more later on, such as obtaining tanker accreditation now?
A. The fire department is undertaking the Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation as a separate, but parallel program [PDF - 148 KB] to the CVRD's possible construction of a new fire hall. The two programs are planned to converge with the construction of a new fire hall which provides shelter for the second tanker truck required by the fire department for successfully challenging the accreditation test.
Q. Why does a new tanker truck need to be housed in a heated building? Why can't the fire trucks be stored outside?
A. Storing a fire truck outdoors increases the probability of vandalism or mechanical problems possibly delaying response times. In order to more promptly serve the public, the best practice is to store the fire truck in a secure and heated fire hall.
Q. Why can't the second tanker [truck] be a separate entity from the new fire hall and be housed in an alternate location? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. The firefighters need to organize all equipment as quickly as possible. Housing equipment off-site may cause delays in response to an emergency.
Q. Living in High Salal, is it true that owners won't receive the reduced insurance rates of the Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation because of road access?
A. The CVRD and the fire department can work with the residents of High Salal to develop a plan that may include them in the insurance premium reductions.
Fire Hall Questions
Q. Will the firefighters be included in the designing process of the new fire hall? (question recieved May 30, 2012)
A. Yes. The firefighters will be involved with the designing of a new fire hall to ensure that it meets the space and operational requirements of the department.
Q. Can we just rebuild the old fire hall to be seismically safe? (question recieved May 30, 2012)
A. The engineer's reports have indicated that rebuilding the old fire hall to meet post-disaster standards of the building code would not be economically practical.
Q. Is the site of the new fire hall not part of the K'omoks First Nation land settlement application? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. As part of the land grant application, the CVRD and the province have received a letter from the K'omoks First Nation stating that it has no concerns with the proposed new fire hall site.
Q. Does the CVRD need a detailed engineering study to proceed with the project?
A. Yes. To ensure that the project meets all aspects of the building code, normal engineering services will be engaged.
Q. What is the longevity of the new proposed fire hall in comparison to cheaper alternatives? What is the lifespan of a temporary building such as the Denman Island ambulance station? (question recieved July 26, 2012)
A. A new fire hall would be designed to serve the community for 50 years or more. “Cheaper” alternatives, such as the ambulance station on Denman, have a manufacturer-claimed lifespan of 20 years. Of note, the cost per square foot of erecting a structure such as the Denman Island ambulance station, including concrete, mechanical and electrical systems is slightly less than that of a purpose-built structure. Operating costs, such as energy used to heat, are higher.
Q. What are the benefits to having a “post-disaster” fire hall?
A. “Post-disaster” buildings are defined in the National Building Code as those buildings essential to the provision of services in the event of a disaster. The benefit of a “post-disaster” fire hall is that the emergency equipment, including fire trucks, ambulance, water supply trucks, and communication equipment will likely survive a disaster and be available to serve the community in a time of great need.
Q. Can public meeting facilities be incorporated into a new fire hall as was done on Quadra Island?
A. Public meeting facilities may be incorporated into the design of a new fire hall if the community indicates this as a priority.
General Questions and Comments
Q. If the current fire hall building is not safe then why would we use it for the community once the fire hall is built?
A. The development plan submitted to the province as part of the Crown land grant application includes the demolition of the old fire hall. The Hornby Island Residents and Ratepayers Association ( HIRRA) has asked that the CVRD consider support of its possible application to the province to maintain the old fire hall building for community purposes. View the July 7, 2010 staff report [PDF - 151 KB].
Q. Can other community uses be explored for the old fire hall? Would it be safe for other community use activities?
A. HIRRA wishes to examine this option and has requested that the CVRD support its exploration.
Q. If the current fire hall building is not safe then why do we have our firefighters currently using the building?
A. With the need for a new fire hall identified, the select committee and the CVRD are working towards providing a safe workplace for the firefighters.
Q. Has anything been done, to date, to make the fire hall safer?
A. Yes. The fire fighters have installed short-term measures to lessen the risk of seismic damage to portions of the fire hall, but those measures are recognized as not meeting building code requirements.
Comment received Oct 21, 2012:
I had a chance to walk the new site and was surprised at the grade change from the road. I think at the meetings this site was being promoted as being level and was superior to the current site which has grade issues. From what I could see and feel the proposed site is no better than the current one unless a significant sum is spent on leveling.
Response: Early in 2009 the select committee had raised this same concern as you have. Accordingly, they requested that the slope of the new site be confirmed by way of British Columbia Land Surveyor. The completed survey indicates that the property has a 5% slope which is an acceptable gradient for safe fire truck access and egress.
Comment received Oct 21, 2012:
The 2 storey design as proposed would be expensive to build taking into account new earthquake standards. I believe a one storey solution is more cost effective. Also we need to look at prefab alternates for some the spatial needs since traditional stick building on Hornby is very expensive.
Response: These are very important aspects of the design of a new fire hall. As the design of the fire hall is developed, your comments, and those of other Hornby Island residents and property owners will guide the design team to a fire hall that provides the best value for Hornby Island.
Comment received December 27, 2012:
I am writing in support of the proposal to build a new fire hall on Hornby. I understand the need to construct a new hall, and wish that it could proceed as fast as possible. I do not think that a referendum on such a decision is in the public interest. The estimated cost seems quite reasonable. I am not a firefighter, just a concerned visitor and taxpayer. Please initiate this project ASAP.
Comment received Feb 6, 2013
HI: Given the safety issue for the firefighters and the improvement in service, I would support the project. The increase taxes are minimal, and I do not believe the cost of a referendum warrants holding one. I am on Hornby in the summer, and it would be appreciated if a meeting could be held in August. Perhaps Tony could arrange one if it is not feasible or cost effective to have a larger session. Family has owned, summered and lived on Hornby for 40 years. Please do not use my name if comments are posted. Thank you.
The CVRD welcomes questions and written submissions regarding this project. Questions and written submissions may be forwarded to the CVRD at HIFDsubmissions@comoxvalleyrd.ca