The Cariboo Regional District will pursue legal action to ensure the original fire agreement with the City of Williams Lake for fringe fire protection is enforced.
In a recent survey the CRD received responses from 328 rural fringe residents. Sixty per cent of respondents indicated they want the CRD to continue legal action, 25 per cent said they want the CRD to pursue developing a volunteer fire department to serve the fringe area, and 15 per cent said they want the CRD to develop a new fire agreement with the city.
“From those surveys we have a fairly strong mandate and clear direction of what the people in the rural fringe think about what we should be doing with fire protection,” CRD Chair Al Richmond said.
The CRD has also agreed to attend a mediation session, as formally requested by the city two weeks ago, in an effort to resolve the matter.
“Mediation is part of the process so we’ve agreed to attend the mediation session and see if we can find some solutions,” Richmond said. “Apparently in the new process they have an option to go to mediation before you go to court so we consider it to be part of the process. Anything we can do to reduce the cost to taxpayers in resolving this issue means we’re certainly prepared to engage in those discussions.”
During a special board meeting Monday, Feb. 4, the CRD delegated authority to deal with the ongoing litigation with the city to a Williams Lake Fringe Area Fire Protection Standing Committee consisting of all CRD directors except the representative from the city, who is currently Mayor Kerry Cook.
At their regular meeting Tuesday Cook told city council members she voted in opposition to the standing committee structure and its authority.
“They proceeded to a closed meeting, which I was not part of,” Cook said.
Coun. Ivan Bonnell said it was “bizarre” that Cook had been removed from working with the CRD board on the issue of fringe protection.
“But fair enough, if they have the authority to do that,” Bonnell said. “It must be cumbersome for yourself as the representative to sit there and go through that, I appreciate how awkward that must be for you,” he told Cook.
“I’m assuming, given they are taking that activity, that they are accepting full responsibility for any costs on that decision because the city is in no shape or form participating,” Bonnell added.
Cook said those types of financial details have not been discussed with the CRD.
Coun. Laurie Walters said the CRD agreeing to go to a mediation session is “a positive step in moving forward.”
Cook agreed with Walters, saying the two parties have to find a way to more forward.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Cook said.
The CRD will host a public meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in the Gibraltar Room of the Cariboo Memorial Complex to present and discuss the results of the survey.