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Kelowna  

New firehall too ambitious?

The Kelowna Fire Department may have to wait a few more years before they can cut the ribbon on a new firehall in Glenmore which would replace the antiquated hall on Valley Road North.

A comprehensive report unveiled to city council Monday, made several recommendations including construction of a new Glenmore hall in 2020.

This is in contrast to the city's 2030 Infrastructure Plan which envisioned a new Glenmore hall be built between 2022 and 2024.

"I would like to know what this means as a tax increase," said Coun. Gail Given.

"We are going to need information from our finance department that, if in fact we say yes, what are we committing to for the next tax increase. I would want to know what we are saying yes to for next year, the year after and the year after that for tax increases."

The anticipated cost of a new new firehall, including construction, land acquisition and apparatus, is estimated at $9.1 million.

City finance director Genelle Davidson told council the city would need to borrow $8 million for land and construction. That borrowing would occur in the spring of 2019.

"The debt payments are built in to the plan with a .29 per cent increase," said Davidson.

"The .29 does appear to be quite low, however, what we've done is offset the cost reductions...for example the District of Lake Country contract savings  are offsetting that increased cost in building, expenses and hiring the new firefighters."

Davidson said the building and land would be debt-financed while the new equipment, fire trucks etc., would be funded through taxation.

That would be a $1.1 million ask in the 2019 capital plan.

Council is concerned about the tax burden, given the impact of the new RCMP detachment currently under construction.

Council also wondered how moving up construction of a new firehall would impact other construction projects contained within the infrastructure plan.

They asked staff to bring back a report which would indicate just that.

"If this directive of moving to 2020 has some unanticipated consequences, I think council should know what those may be," added Given.

"The bottom line is, we may after we receive that information, says 2020 works. It's not about saying not, it's about saying we just approved something we had in 2022 to 2024."

Council did endorse the remainder of the recommendations which include the addition of 12 additional firefighters in 2017 and eight in 2019.

There will also be a cost of renovating the current Glenmore hall to accommodate the addition career firefighters to the hall. The renovation cost is expected to come in at about $67,000.

Fire Chief Jeff Carlisle said he was not disappointed council decided to investigate ramifications of moving up construction of a new firehall.

"There's lots of things that can happen in the city between now and 2020, so we took a flexible approach," said Carlisle.

"If I had my druthers, yea, we'd like to have a station operating in Glenmore by 2020. I think the interim step of having the Glenmore station renovated and operating with a level of service until the new station is built is a good one."

He said moving incrementally in Glenmore is a smart move.

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