A proposal to lease a building from the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) to provide enhanced fire protection coverage in the 150 Mile Fire Protection District will not go ahead.
During the Cariboo Regional District meeting on Friday, March 27, directors voted unanimously to discontinue the project after receiving a report from John MacLean, chief executive officer.
Firstly, the construction of a new hall would have zero reduction on insurance ratings as it would be within the existing eight-kilometre-travel distance to the primary 150 Mile fire hall, MacLean noted, adding secondly, it would compete with the existing hall for members and resources, thus creating administrative burden for the organization.
“Because of these two factors, a cost benefit analysis determines that this project should not proceed and be abandoned,” he stated.
WLIB Chief Willie Sellars said Monday although the result is disappointing, the community will not be ruling out future collaborations with the CRD.
“We will continue to act in good faith through the mechanism of the existing tripartite agreement signed with the CRD and the City of Williams Lake,” he said. “As WLIB continues to develop land areas in Sugar Cane and Coyote Rock, we recognize the significance of our local government relationships with the CRD and City of Williams Lake”
During the CRD meeting Area F director Maureen LeBourdais said in 2016, residents from the White Road and Lexington area put together a petition voicing concerns about fire protection and then director Joan Sorley contacted the WLIB about it.
Staff put together a budget, then the 2017 wildfires happened and the proposal was put on the back burner, Le Bourdais said.
“We’ve had lots of conversations and have a good relationship with the WLIB and we felt it needed to come back to the board with financial details. It’s time to put it to bed so we can move forward on other things we are in partnership developing,” LeBourdais said.
Aaron Mannella, chief administrative officer, said areas planned for coverage under the proposed fire hall included the community of Sugar Cane, the Coyote Rock residential and commercial development, and surrounding CRD fire protection area.
“The proposed project provided a unique opportunity for our two governments to collaborate through a shared purpose in providing fire protection to Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of the region,” he added. “While we are disappointed that this project has not been fulfilled, we are looking forward to future collaboration with the Cariboo Regional District.”
Conversation with the CRD started in 2016 on the premise of building a new facility, Mannella said.
“Once capital costs deemed this notion to be prohibitive, we recently presented the option of a long-term lease to the CRD with an existing, four-bay commercial building that previously housed a band-owned enterprise — Sugar Cane Treadpro. WLIB had proposed to provide a long-term lease to the building, partial lease-hold improvement funding, and a commitment to providing volunteer firefighters.”
Mannella said WLIB receives fire protection from the 150 Mile Fire Department in collaboration with the Cariboo Regional District. Funding is directed to the CRD on behalf of WLIB through a fire protection budget, he added.
During the CRD board meeting, Area D director Steve Forseth asked how residents who signed the petition would be notified of the decision, and LeBourdais replied they deserve a formal response which would be communicated soon.