Regarding the Fire Hall as proposed.

Monday, March 12 2012

Dear Editor,
I usually try to resist Gabriola’s inexorable slide toward more amenities, more and better services, more regulation and inevitably, more taxes, but after following the raging, and sometimes outrageous, debate about the fire hall proposal I’ve decided to vote in favour of it. This is not only because of the merits of one idea over another, though the differences are significant, but also because I have trust and confidence in the volunteer fire trustees and specifically, in our fire chief, Rick Jackson. And there is good reason to feel this way.
Over many years I’ve watched Mr. Jackson and a series of trustees develop our fire department from a group of well-intentioned volunteers providing a modicum of firefighting capability with little or no training, hand me down equipment and no compensation except for an annual barbecue, into what is now a well-organized, competent public safety organization.
My home insurance (and yours) was reduced a few years ago in recognition of the upgrades to training levels, water infrastructure and response times that have all occurred under Mr. Jackson’s supervision. Many people have rightly lauded the work of the volunteer firefighters but rarely have I heard Mr. Jackson given the credit he deserves for the standards of performance and commitment our crews have attained and maintained while he’s been chief.
In the two years and more that this plan has been developing, the trustees for their part have undoubtedly spent many, many hours (volunteer hours!) learning about, investigating and discussing the legalities, technicalities and various nuances of bringing a project like this into being. Obviously there has been lots of dissent and debate for them to consider, which I believe they have considered, reasoned to the best of their abilities, and at times perhaps rejected a variety of inputs and alternatives along the way to get to this stage. I can understand that some people might not agree with, or especially, want to pay for, the plan they have brought forward at the end of their process, but to me, the suggestion that the volunteer trustees (who are, remember, our friends and neighbours} are being frivolous in decision-making or with public money, or are being self-serving in some way, or are working with anything but the long-term interests of the island in mind is, to put it mildly, mean-spirited, inaccurate and ill-considered.
One good feature of the controversy about the building is that it will certainly make the trustees even more vigilant to keep costs down wherever possible. And yes, maybe the painting or landscaping can be done a little more cheaply, maybe volunteer labor can and should be used and maybe, as the project unfolds, these and other savings will be realized. These and other good suggestions from a now engaged public can still be incorporated as the plan moves forward.
I’m sure that public input and scrutiny won’t end if the referendum passes. In all the uproar about the proposed hall there has been lots of criticism of the costs and sadly, of the people working on our behalf, but I haven’t heard any negative criticism about functionality, serviceability or utility of the proposed building itself. With all of this in mind I expect to vote yes on the fire hall referendum.
~ Allen Darling