Ainsworth, Woodbury, and Kaslo vote Saturday on the future of fire protection in their area.
Kaslo residents are being asked whether they’re willing to turn their municipal fire department into a regional district service with annual taxation of $284,000 and borrow up to $1.6 million to build a new fire hall.
Ainsworth and Woodbury are being asked to approve up to $24,000 a year to establish a service that would see them permanently provided with fire protection from Balfour and Kaslo, enshrining what has been provided on a contract basis the past two years.
Regional District of Central Kootenay fire chief Terry Swan said the figure for the new Kaslo hall includes $400,000 to pay off existing debt from equipment purchases. He’s hopeful the actual cost can be considerably reduced through sponsorships and volunteer labour.
“These are the sort of things I can’t predict nor can I make expectations around,” he said. “I strongly believe it will be under budget. It’s just a matter of the community getting behind it.”
Swan said if the final cost is indeed less, the surplus could be applied to reducing taxation.
The present Kaslo fire hall, built in the 1970s, is attached to the village office. Swan said it doesn’t meet modern building standards, lacks space for equipment and doesn’t have a washroom — firefighters currently use the one in the gas station next door.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow to face that tax increase, but it’s an investment in their future, I believe,” Swan said.
The building would be designed to accommodate all emergency responders in Kaslo, he added, including BC Ambulance once the contract on its present space expires, and search and rescue.
If the new hall is approved, it would be built next to the arena. If the vote fails, the next move will be up to the village. If the Ainsworth referendum fails, they will have no official fire protection.
There are 1,369 people on the Kaslo voters list and 96 on the Ainsworth list. Advance balloting took place last week.