Ainsworth and Woodbury residents will vote next year on creating a fire service area after a counter-petition saw the proposal defeated by two signatures.
Under the process, if 10 per cent of eligible electors petition against a proposal, the regional district board can’t proceed without going to referendum.
In this case, only ten signatures were required. Fifteen response forms were received by the November 30 deadline, of which 11 were verified as valid.
Regional district director Andy Shadrack opted Thursday to send the matter to a public vote, hoping to hold it in conjunction with another referendum on building a new fire hall in Kaslo and creating a regional district fire service for the area.
“We have offered [residents] a chance to have a fire response service that is less than the cost of a direct service,” he said. “We have no reason to believe the majority don’t want that. A minority don’t want to pay for any service at all. That’s their right.”
Shadrack says he isn’t critical of those who signed the counter-petition.
No date has been set for the referendum, which is expected to cost about $5,000.
The question will be similar or identical to the one posed by the counter-petition, which asked if residents supported a bylaw to raise $24,000 per year toward the service.
The referendum in Kaslo will ask two separate questions. Shadrack indicated both need to pass for the proposal to succeed. Originally that vote was supposed to be held last August, but it was delayed pending another study.
The issue of fire protection came to a head following blazes that destroyed heritage buildings in Ainsworth and Woodbury in 2009 and 2010. The Village of Kaslo agreed to provide fire response to the area with the understanding the regional district would explore creating a new fire service and building a satellite hall in the Ainsworth-Woodbury area.
However, a consultant said such a hall wasn’t feasible, and the area should have fire response from Kaslo and Balfour. Kaslo has agreed to extend its fire service contract with Ainsworth to the end of 2013.