During the March 9 regular meeting, Ucluelet’s mayor and council unanimously approved a recommendation from district staff to use up to $30,000 of Barkley Community Forest funds for a fire hall feasibility study.
“It would include a report on the conditions of the current fire hall and what some options would be that we could put forward to council afterwards,” said Fire Chief Geddes.
“The driving force behind the need for this, there are a few… The current fire hall as we know is going to need some major renovations in the near future, number one being a roof. Number two, it’s not big enough to suit our future needs and it’s not built to post-disaster standards as well. The third big one is that it’s not big enough to host an aerial apparatus which, by fire underwriter recommendations or guidelines, we need to have an aerial apparatus. We have five buildings that are three or more storeys and that is the trigger for municipalities to have an aerial apparatus. In order to do that down that road, we would need a place to store it,” he said.
Geddes told council the report, conducted by Liberty Construction Group, would investigate three areas of information and convey options moving forward.
“One being major renovations to the current fire hall, two being a tear down and a rebuild on the same site and the third, new construction on an alternative site,” said Ucluelet’s Fire Chief.
Councillor Marilyn McEwen wondered about the price tag.
“Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like $30,000 is an awful lot of money to do a study,” she said.
Geddes addressed her concerns. He said the report would include initial concept drawings and put the fire hall in a good position to apply for a future grant.
“You know we can cut a lot of corners and save some money, but in the end it needs to be a proper size facility to house our needs as a community. Yes, it’s a little bit more than just someone coming here and having a look. It’s going to provide a lot of feedback and provide the means for us and council to have input into what we would like to see as community a new fire hall and emergency operations centre,” said Geddes.
Councillor Rachelle Cole inquired about granting opportunities.
“Is there a chance you’ve looked into grants? As opposed to using Barkley Community Forest funds?” asked Cole.
Geddes said he had not explored that option.
Ucluelet’s Acting Chief Administration Officer and Chief Financial Officer Donna Monteith interjected.
“I’ve actually explored that option. It was my idea to take it out of the Barkley Community Forest funds because the grants don’t cover the cost of doing these types of studies. It just gets us ready to apply for something if the time comes,” said Monteith.
Mayor Mayco Noel spoke.
“There are a lot of grants coming. This wasn’t in our strategic plan, but there is value to have this ready. I think it’s appropriate that we get this to the next stage. We may end up shelving it for a few years, but it would be disappointing (not to have something ready),” said Noel.
The big question Mayor Noel had for Fire Chief Geddes was about timeline. Geddes said he didn’t have a timeline yet, but that they would get to work on it sooner rather than later.
Councillor Jennifer Hoar also addressed the topic of using Barkley Community Forest funds for the purpose of a feasibility report.
“I hesitate to go into the Barkley Community Forest funds personally, but I do know that that fire hall needs to be looked at, and the potential to grab a grant if one becomes available is pretty important. It’s worth having a shelf ready something,” said Hoar.
While council and mayor voted in favour to approve the use of up to $30,000 of Barkley Community Forest funds for the fire hall feasibility study, it is worth noting that the Zoom screen of Councillor Lara Kemps was frozen for most of the discussion, including the vote.