Fire hall expansion to proceed after close approval process vote

By on January 22, 2018
Fire Chief Dave Tomkinson at an open house back in September stands where he hopes a decontamination room will soon be. The phase two renovation would add better flow to the fire hall, allowing firefighters returning from a call to enter the decontamination room straight from the truck bay behind him. Doing so would keep the dirty part of the firehall separate from the administrative side to keep potential carcinogens or other chemicals away from the firehall’s offices and living spaces. (Michael Potestio/Herald)


A $2.2 million expansion of Merritt’s fire hall can move to the next stage after an alternative approval process failed to garner enough votes to stop it.

The city received 555 elector response forms — one shy of the 556 needed to stop the borrowing bylaw from moving forward — but only 533 forms were valid, corporate officer Sean Smith told the Herald.

Of the 22 invalid forms, five were from people living outside Merritt in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, two were duplicate forms and the rest were not properly filled out, missing required information that couldn’t be independently verified.

“We counted this over and over and over and over again because we couldn’t believe it came in at 555,” Smith said. “You don’t need to certify the results of each individual form unless you get 556, but seeing as we got 555 that was way too close for us and we felt the need to verify forms individually and consulted with the province as to how we should be going about that.”

The two-storey, 10,000 square-foot addition to the fire hall is intended to update the 45-year-old building to modern standards as it lacks space, storage and a proper decontamination room, fire chief Dave Tomkinson told the Herald.

Artistic renders show the proposed expansion from two different angles. (Photo courtesy of Merritt Fire Rescue).

Merritt city council already gave three readings to the borrowing bylaw in 2017 and — with the approval process complete — will now vote on whether or not to adopt the bylaw which would see the city borrow the $2.2 million from the municipal finance authority.

Smith told the Herald council could weigh the close result of the alternative approval process when making its next decision.

The first three readings were approved by a split 5-2 vote, with councillors Dave Baker and Mike Goetz opposed to the borrowing.

When a municipality plans to incur debt over a period longer than five years for a project, it must undergo a form of community approval process.

In an alternative approval process only those opposed to the borrowing are required to vote, with 10 per cent of eligible voters needed to stop the project from moving ahead.

Anyone 18 years of age or older who has lived in Merritt for at least 30 days or a property owner who lives outside of town was eligible to vote, Smith told the Herald.

A 36-day window of opportunity to vote was held between Dec. 15, 2017 and last Friday (Jan 19). An email option was provided as the process was occurring over the holidays when city hall was closed for a few days.

Smith said the city received 54 forms via email and 501 were submitted to city hall.

The city went through the alternative approval process for phase one of the project just a few years ago, borrowing $1 million to pay for a new fire truck along with an additional truck bay to house the vehicle.

If adopted, this new bylaw will enable the city to borrow the full estimated cost of phase two, which, according to the City of Merritt, would be about $134,000 per year over a 25-year period.

“If you owned a property that’s [valued at] $240,000 it’d [cost you] about $21 a year or $1.70 a month,” Tomkinson said.

Construction of phase two of the expansion could begin later this year.

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