Letter to the Editor - Regarding the Fire Board’s mail-out letter

Monday, February 27 2012

I received a letter in the mail today (Feb. 22) from Gabriola Fire Protection, as no doubt did everyone else.
The letter states that they are not going to increase the property taxes “beyond what you have paid in 2011.” Well, that is very nice to know. Perhaps a letter stating the taxes would be increasing, and for what reason, should have been mailed quite a few years ago before they arbitrarily decided to increase the fire protection portion of our property taxes, without our knowledge. This large increase in fire protection costs will be payable every year for 20 years via our property taxes.
Five million dollars is way too much for a fire hall on Gabriola. We are a very small tax base. Other Gulf Islands have built for much less, so why on earth can’t we.
I have concerns with the way this Fire Board operates, i.e.,
1) Why no mail-in ballots or proxies are allowed, when it is legal to do so.   This leaves many property owners without the opportunity to vote in the referendum. I most definitely would not take the reply from them as “too expensive.”
2) We have another fire hall at the south end. There is no doubt that it will have to be “upgraded” also. Will we find out in a few years time that more tax money has been arbitrarily taken from us without our knowledge?
3) I have a feeling that this proposed large fire hall is a lead-up to hiring permanent firefighters, which will in turn lead to even more expenses for taxpayers because of wages and benefits.
4) The more expensive it gets to live on Gabriola, the more diversity we lose because only “select” people will be able to afford to live here. We need to encourage families to stay here, to buy or rent here, and as we are already struggling with the recession and all the problems that creates, including the ongoing raise in ferry fares, I worry that this proposed, expensive fire hall is just an unnecessary “nail in the coffin.” Our small community cannot afford such multi-million dollar projects. I am also concerned that this will set a precedence for other “projects” on this small island.
Before anyone thinks otherwise, I am not dissing the firefighters. They do a great job, as do our police and medical personnel. If anything I’m dissing the board and the chief for putting this large, unnecessary expense on our doorsteps, and doing it without our knowledge or our consent. 
~  Sue Sharp