North Westside fire boat approved

A contentious debate over firefighting equipment has been extinguished by politicians.

Central Okanagan Regional District directors voted unanimously Friday to purchase a $220,000 fire boat for the North Westside Road area.

“I’m glad we’re at the end of a long process for a necessary piece of equipment,” said Wayne Carson, fire chief.

The fire boat has been proposed for years as a way of increasing safety to secluded residences. However, many taxpayers questioned the cost and if the boat was even required.

“If the boat was such a good idea, why did they not call a community meeting about it?” said Allastair Fergusson, with the North Westside Ratepayers Association.

“We could have ironed this out four years ago.”

Fergusson says he accepts CORD’s decision, but he still has concerns.

“I’m not happy that the boat came in at twice the price as originally planned. They will also need $30,000 for a boat house,” he said.

But while some residents oppose the expenditure, director Jim Edgson says others support it and they made their sentiments known to the board.

“People made the point that it’s there to serve the community as a whole,” he said.

“One person said that if it saves one person, one house or one clump of trees, it will pay for itself.”

The average house on the North Westside will pay $2.95 more in 2011 for fire protection but that is for the overall service. The money for the boat will come for reserves.

Tenders will now be sought for the boat, but Edgson insists the $220,000 budget has been set.

“It cannot cost more than that or I won’t support it,” he said.

Carson says firefighting is a challenge because of water systems with low flows and the boat will be able to take water from Okanagan Lake and shower it on to an area about 300 metres from the shoreline.

“It will provide a means of escape for firefighters and residents below Westside Road,” he said, adding that one-way accesses into homes could be cut off by flames.

It’s expected that the boat could be in place by later this year.

CORD adopted its 2011 budget Friday, and overall, residential taxes for the average home along North Westside Road are decreasing $3.19.

 

The decrease is a result of a reduction in costs for planning and building inspection.