Regional district diverts more dam funds for Kootenay Boundary fire department

A total of $500,000 will be diverted from general admin to fund the Kootenay Boundary fire dept.

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) directors have temporarily doused debate on who should fund the Kootenay Boundary Fire Service, resolving to fund the primarily east-end department from revenues generated from the Waneta Dam south of Montrose.

Up until 2018, the revenue from the dam was going straight into the RDKB’s general administration budget. Then, a majority of directors voted to pull $300,000 of the dam money and put it straight to the fire service, which is based in Trail. Debate flared up again last week, when East End directors asked their colleagues to up the ask by another $200,000.

For director Vicki Gee’s Area E tax base, the $300,000 reduction in general administration funding created a $48,000 impact on her area, she told the table at the Feb. 27 meeting.

Arguing against the further ask, Gee noted that there are big income generators at either end of the regional district, Big White in the West, and dam revenues in the east.

“I see quite a difference there,” she said. “At Big White, it’s coming out of people’s pockets – it’s the taxation on their homes and their businesses,” she said, calling the move to reallocate funds from a budget that benefits all of the regional district to one that she and other West End directors say is of little benefit to them “grossly unfair.”

Gee’s area boasts three fire services – the Kettle Valley fire department, the Beaverdell fire department, and the Big White fire department. At a town hall meeting last month, Beaverdell firefighters indicated that much of their equipment, often acquired second-hand from Big White, is becoming more and more outdated but the service’s budget is quite slim.

In 2018, when changes were made to fire services in the east end – dispatch service changes and expansions, mainly – the board had agreed to divert the funds to cover the newly incurred costs. At the time, Marguerite Rotvold (Midway) and Roly Russell (Area D) cautioned that their support would only be for the one year.

In 2019, the East End Services Committee renewed its request for the funds, that time to hire a deputy fire chief. Midway’s director opposed, along with directors for areas D and E.

READ MORE: RDKB directors divided over dam revenues and fire service

“We strongly feel this is a shared service,” said East End Services Committee chair and Area A director Ali Grieve.

Grieve argued that the Kootenay Boundary Fire Service has benefitted the West End in the past, serving the area during emergencies, such as the 2015 Rock Creek fire and the 2018 floods.

“The transfer of money from Area A dam revenues, in my opinion, is also your investment in a service that has been used in both communities – our community,” Grieve said.

Chief Administrative Officer Mark Andison clarified that expenses for such aid, when under an Emergency Management B.C. mandate, are covered by the province for the period of service. Though, the robustness of any department – staff, equipment, training – is not covered the same way.

“This has nothing to do with fire services,” said Area D director Roly Russell, “It is a decision by a voting majority at this table to reallocate funding from a regional service supporting all to the smallest group possible while still holding the voting majority.”

Instead of upping the taxation requisition for 2020, Grieve and Trail director Robert Cacchioni proposed that the additional $200,000 be covered by withdrawing that amount from the RDKB’s general surface, which sits at around $5 million. That fund, Andison said, has been built up to cover upkeep of RKDB facilities and is currently being studied for an asset management plan that should indicate what a healthy reserve should look like.

Russell and Gee also spoke against the surplus solution, noting that it would mean drawing half a million dollars from reserve for taxation smoothing in 2020 alone – or roughly half of the amount the RDKB has earmarked in its reserve to lessen the tax burden.

“It seems backwards,” Russell said, “to be eating that much into these reserves,” arguing that the board should exercise caution before eating into reserves before understanding the needs for a surplus in an asset management plan.

In the end, East End directors voted to take $200,000 from reserves to smooth taxation requisitions for 2020, but the stop-gap solution will mean that the discussion could flare up again in the 2021 budget talks.


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

firefighters

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Over 440 complaints issued in 3 months about Central Kootenay governments: B.C. Ombudsperson

Most common complaints were about decisions and bylaw enforcement in local governments

Trail medical lab makes changes amid pandemic

Rossland and Salmo clinics are not seeing immunocompromised or suspect/symptomatic patients.

New city hall, four-storey development proposed for Rossland

The building would include 37 affordable housing units

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Most Read