Ref­er­en­dum votes pass, new pool, fire hall to be built

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff tclarke@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

City tax­pay­ers passed Satur­day’s ref­er­en­dum to re­place the down­town fire hall and build a new Four Sea­sons Pool.

A to­tal of 6,520 vot­ers (82.79 per cent of the vote) want the city to bor­row $15 mil­lion to re­place the down­town fire hall while 1,355 (17.21 per cent) voted against the pro­posal.

The city’s pro­posal to bor­row $35 mil­lion to re­place the Four Sea­sons Pool drew 4,923 yes votes (62.48 per cent) and 2,956 (37.52 per cent) voted against it.

Pend­ing fi­nal ap­proval, the city will re­place the main fire hall down­town with a more cen­trally-lo­cated hall on the south­west cor­ner of Massey Drive and Car­ney Street next to the YMCA. That would in­crease the hall’s eight-minute re­sponse zone by close to 50 per cent, ac­cord­ing to Prince Ge­orge Fire Res­cue.

Gen­eral vot­ing day bal­lots showed 5,036 yes votes and 1,089 no votes for the new fire hall. The ad­vance poll had 1,378 in favour and 258 against. Mail-in bal­lots were 106 in favour and there were eight against.

“This ref­er­en­dum re­sult will give us an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove what is al­ready a re­ally ter­rific ser­vice and al­low us to pro­vide that to the city,” said PGFR chief John Iver­son.

“The city has grown from its footprint in 1956 (when Fire Hall No. 1 opened) and it’s clearly grown south and west and the fire hall lo­ca­tion was good in 1956 but look­ing at it to­day it’s not in the right lo­ca­tion. This is a great op­por­tu­nity to move that hall to a proper lo­ca­tion as well as have our staff op­er­at­ing our of mod­ern fa­cil­ity where we can prop­erly staff our trucks and put the right trucks in the right lo­ca­tion.”

The ref­er­en­dum gives the city the go-ahead to build a new Four Sea­sons Pool at 600 Que­bec St. The site’s cur­rent oc­cu­pant, the Days Inn, will be torn down and the city will need to pur­chase the build­ing for $4.5 mil­lion. That cost, as well as the es­ti­mated $2.5 mil­lion to de­mol­ish the old pool and the ho­tel, are not in­cluded in the $35 mil­lion but will be cov­ered by other city sources.

The city has said the ex­ist­ing Four Sea­sons pool no longer meets safety stan­dards and would have needed $10.3 mil­lion worth of up­dates just to meet im­me­di­ate needs. The new pool will in­clude a ther­apy-tod­dler pool, a leisure pool with a wad­ing zone, play fea­tures and a slide.

The pool re­place­ment gen­eral vot­ing day re­sults drew 3,683 votes in favour and 2,446 against. The ad­vance poll had 1,150 yes votes and 487 no votes. There were 90 votes in favour in the mail-in poll and 23 against.

The down­town fire hall serves as a base for a crew of seven fire sup­pres­sion staff to pro­vide 24-hour cov­er­age ev­ery day of the year. There are also a min­i­mum of two dis­patch­ers there ev­ery hour of ev­ery day. It’s also the base for two train­ing staff mem­bers and for fire pre­ven­tion and cler­i­cal staff as well.

Busi­nesses in the BCR in­dus­trial site in the south end if the city off High­way 97 will be among sev­eral lo­ca­tions which will ben­e­fit from the move to a new fire hall lo­ca­tion, says Iver­son.

“This will al­low us to get our crews to many more ad­dresses within eight min­utes and that’s re­ally im­por­tant in fire fight­ing be­cause it gives you the best op­por­tu­nity to con­fine the fire to the room of ori­gin where it started.

“That re­duces prop­erty loss and re­duces risk of death and in­jury to the ci­ti­zens As first re­spon­ders we want to get to peo­ple that need our help as quickly as pos­si­ble and we’ve just de­creased the re­sponse time to so many more peo­ple in the city by mov­ing that fire hall to a bet­ter lo­ca­tion.”

A to­tal of 7,875 city res­i­dents voted in the ref­er­en­dum.

Lead­ing up to the vote, act­ing on the fa­cil­i­ties au­dit, city coun­cil held sev­eral pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ses­sions, in­clud­ing tours of the ex­ist­ing fire hall and pool and pro­vided an in­for­ma­tion video in ad­di­tion to ex­plain­ing the need for the re­place­ment of both build­ings.

“We re­ally wanted res­i­dents to be in­formed so that they could make a de­ci­sion on what they wanted to do and with Fire Hall No. 1 what it may have boiled down to is pub­lic safety and the key around that was the stan­dards of cov­er­age and the fact the fire hall is old and needs a con­sid­er­able amount of work,” said Mayor Lyn Hall.

“The pool got 60-plus per cent of the vote and that was a mes­sage from the res­i­dents that they rec­og­nize that the Four Sea­sons Pool is old as well and it needed a tremen­dous amount of work. It just wasn’t go­ing to work by shut­ting that one down for a cou­ple years and build­ing a new one in the same lo­ca­tion. We knew that one pool – the Aquatic Cen­tre – couldn’t han­dle ex­tra 100,000 or 115,000 vis­its a year. There are a tremen­dous amount of peo­ple who use that pool and the pool in its lo­ca­tion down­town pro­vides an at­trac­tion and hope­fully peo­ple will spend more time down­town. We wanted to make that one of the fo­cal points of down­town.”

Hall said the next step for the city is to de­cide on a de­sign for both new build­ings, which he said will take the bet­ter part of next year. Con­struc­tion for the pool and fire hall will likely be­gin late in 2018 or early in 2019. Hall said the pool re­place­ment project will re­quire about two years to com­plete. The new fire hall will likely be fin­ished in 2019.

CIT­I­ZEN FILE PHOTO

On Satur­day city vot­ers ap­proved a ref­er­en­dum to re­place Fire Hall No. 1, seen above, and the Four Sea­sons Pool.

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