NEWS/ PINANTAN — There were lots of questions about how to get it done and what it would cost, but support for investigating fire service for Pinantan Lake seemed fairly strong at a community meeting of about 30 people tonight (Tuesday).
A fire that destroyed the Pinantan General Store on the Easter weekend has renewed local interest in establishing a fire protection service, and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District was at the meeting to explain the process.
Cory George, the owner of the store, said after the meeting that plans are ready for a new building and he expects construction to start in August. He’s hoping it will be ready to open before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, fire protection service is up for community discussion again after having been turned down a few years ago.
Ron Storie, the TNRD’s community services manager, said there are three options: a brigade such as now exists with no funding or training, a “financial contribution” volunteer model, or a fire department operated by the regional district.
Each one has different costs, levels of training and liability issues. TNRD CEO Sukh Gill said the first thing residents should decide is the area to be served. The financial impact to residents would depend on capital and operating costs, and potential savings on property insurance.
TNRD Area P director John Sternig said the issue is a complicated one that will require a lot of discussion and research, but urged residents not to let the community become divided over it.
“Whatever happens, you still have to act as a community.”
One of the questions on residents’ minds was how to get started. Sternig said a community proponent such as the Pinantan fire association would apply to the TNRD to get the ball rolling.
Residents would eventually be asked in one of three ways whether or not they support spending money on fire service: a referendum, alternative approval (counter petition) or a property owners petition.
A referendum would cost between $5,000 and $7,500, said Carolyn Black, the TNRD’s manager of legislative services. In the alternative approval process, if 10 per cent or more of voters within the service area oppose fire service, it would be defeated.
Under a property owners petition, eligible voters would fill out petition forms and return them to the TNRD. If 50 per cent or more of owners representing 50 per cent or more of the total assessment of the area are in favour, it would pass.
If the question fails, it would have to wait at least six months for another attempt to be made.
Drawing the boundaries of the service area was the subject of several comments and questions, with Storie explaining that it could not include First Nations land but a mutual assistance contract could be put in place after the fire service is established.
One resident estimated his savings on house insurance would be about $500 with fire protection, while another felt it could be as much as $1,300.