Friday, September 27, 2013

Extreme Standby Position

Over time, which always marches forward, these little or big projects take on legs of their own. As Mr. Schubart of the Fire Dept. board in a candid moment revealed at a recent meeting, in so many words; the plan (for a new fire hall) took on a life of its own! and it became as of Sept. 16th, the "Emergency Services Building Project" It was not amusing to think that an inanimate proposal could actually grow to such proportions or that Mr. Schubart would think that people voting in a referendum to spend $6,250,000 might not be interested in a line by line look at where and what the budgeted money was going to be spent on! Especially with some line items estimated at between a fuzzy $60,000 and as much as $250,000.

No critique of such a good example of Salt Spring Extremism should go without at least offering ideas for other solutions however late in the game they may come. If you have any please comment. It actually would benefit the Fire Dept. to hold off on this decision until perhaps a more modest proposal were presented. My argument with it is less about immediate costs and more about ongoing maintenance, lives, protecting property and island house insurance rates. One of the best decisions the fire dept. made was to locate the two satellite stations at Central and in the Fulford Valley, this apparently saved over a million in house insurance payments. I am not sure what those installations cost but with an annual fire dept. budget of $2,375,000 I think the $6500 dollars a day we pay for this standby service is probably the par for the course considering it now features 5? unionized firepersons and a couple of paid employees?.

The reality is we could use a couple more of those satellite stations, one at the north end and one at Beaver Point or even Izabella point. If we are going to approve $6,250.000 expenditures why are we so focused on a huge centralized building as opposed to spreading this service more island-wide? All of our lives and the saving of our homes, in the dreadful event of a fire may depend on it and that should be the focus of any fire dept. should it not? It is after all a standby emergency service and it should be within reach of actually accomplishing its mission in emergencies; to save lives and protect the actual property. Centralization of this particular emergency service makes it out of reach, in terms of cost and effectiveness with absolutely no sense putting all eggs in one basket particularly in the event of an earthquake just does not seem a good idea for this kind of mega expense.

I think when special interest groups and organizations seeking more of our tax dollars use the insipidly overused notion that "it is only going to add so many dollars a week or whatever to property taxes" they do so with a blind-sided monocular vision because it simply all adds up a start point in an ever increasing amount once it is on the tax requisition. Since taxes rarely ever go down it is quite honestly a huge error in perspective to presume these are the costs of any service. We should all remember the 0% tax on food when the GST came in, while it quelled some public outrage to the GST, it was set as 0% to simply allow the tax to go forward on the books so that it could easily be raised later.