Reaching a fire service agreement between Area C and the
Village of Pemberton has not been a simple task, and it seems that
number-crunching is now the name of the game.
Since 1969, one part of Area C, which is adjacent to the
village, has had a fire service agreement in place with the Village of
Pemberton, and the other areas had been provided with voluntary fire service
until this summer, when the service was revoked.
In addition to cost-sharing for fire service, Area C helped to
pay for two fire trucks and a fire rescue service, which was established in
1989 to serve all of Area C and the village.
But Village of Pemberton officials say Area C hasn’t been
paying its fair share, and they have repeatedly asked SLRD staff to meet with
them to reach a new agreement.
Paul Edgington, chief administrator for the SLRD, says staff
has been trying to gather data so they can come up with a fair agreement, but
explained that the process hasn’t been easy and they have needed time to
resolve data issues.
“We needed to, on an area by area basis, compile sort of
property ownership records and assessed values and we just don’t have a GIS
(Geographic Information System) that pumps that out quickly,” said Edgington.
SLRD staff members are trying to figure out how outlying areas,
like Walkerville, Ivey Lake, and Owl Ridge, which were not included in the
previous agreement with the village, could fit into this new agreement. They
need data to figure out how residents of each area could be fairly taxed for
“In order to make any kind of calculation or prediction as to
what taxation will be and how… amounts will be allocated between areas, based
on taxable values, we needed to break them down into several subcomponents of
the electoral Area C,” Edgington explained.
A report submitted at last Monday’s SLRD meeting outlined three
major cost sharing proposals, which include a flat sum based upon call volumes,
apportionment based on assessed values, and an apportionment based on assessed
values and population. The report rejects the first option, but says the second
and third options should be considered after necessary data is collected.
“We’ve tried to put out our perspective on the issue and
explain so people see in that report, which we encourage people to read, that
everything is not as it appears and there are two sides to a story,” Edgington
A Fire Underwriters Survey, which was prepared in 2000, was
also included in Edgington’s report. It assessed all parts of Area C that did
not have a formal fire agreement with the village, and concluded that, in most
instances, the cost of land for a fire hall combined with relatively low
property values meant that fire protection wasn’t worthwhile.
“It would be too costly, particularly in light of the fact they
were likely to have no offsetting reduction in their property insurance,”
A GIS consultant was recently brought up from Vancouver to help
resolve the issues with their GIS system, and Edgington says the data
collection should soon be complete. Once the data is compiled, they will
explore different cost sharing scenarios and share these findings with elected
officials, then conduct community consultation.
Finally, staff will make a formal recommendation on legislation
and agreements will be prepared and presented to the board, provided they
receive electoral assent.
Edgington says the SLRD has a strong will to resolve the fire
protection issue, and now that the necessary data has been collected, he
believes they will be able to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for
“If people have a will to resolve something, it will be done.”
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy says he is pleased that SLRD
staff are finally moving forward with the fire protection issue, and is hopeful
that the issue will be resolved in time to be included in the 2008 budget.
“I think they are acknowledging that they need to resolve this,
and that’s a positive sign,” said Sturdy.
The mayor points out that there are many steps before a new
agreement is reached, but says even if they can’t find a solution by the new
year, they can probably find a way to implement fire service to Area C.
“Ultimately, I want to see that we’re providing a service in an equitable way to the residents of the greater area.”