Firefighters with the Harrison Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department look through their trucks during a practice night at the hall. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Harrison hopes to use developer money to buy firefighting equipment

The motion will be brought to the UBCM annual general meeting this fall

The Village of Harrison Hot Springs is hoping it can get the province on board with a new plan to allow municipalities to buy firefighting equipment with money from developers.

Monday evening (June 3), council discussed the idea of using development cost charges (DCCs) to fund the purchase of firefighting equipment for the village.

Typically, DCCs are paid by developers to help fund the creation of the infrastructure needed to support the additional residents coming into the municipality: sewer, water, drainage, roads and parkland. These uses are legislated by the provincial government.

However, the village is hoping to add firefighting equipment to that list of acceptable projects, although to make that happen they will need to bring the idea to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) at its AGM this fall.

“There is a direct relationship between all kinds of growth — single-family residential, multi-family residential — and the requirement for not just specialized equipment,” CAO Madeline McDonald said during council. “With growth comes the requirement for more and bigger equipment.”

Harrison council was on board with the idea, and voted in favour of bringing the motion to UBCM.

“Our village is in a period of substantial development and residential growth, which will require additional and expanded services from our fire department,” councillor Michie Vidal said.

“Also (with) the increasing threat of wildfires, fire protection is an essential emergency service that is provided by the village, and this resolution if accepted and passed at UBCM, will provide an additional source of funding to meet the needs of the capital expenses necessary to maintain the crucial fire department in our village.”

RELATED: Agassiz, Harrison prepared for uncertain wildfire season

Councillor Gerry Palmer asked if it would be possible to separate funds that were provided by DCCs, so that buildings over a certain height would contribute DCCs to specialized equipment.

“It concerns me, in terms of our ability to fight fires,” he said. “It seems that taller buildings are more complicated in terms of the firefighting requirements, ladders, etc.

“It does seem harder for me to dip into the general revenue and ask the taxpayers to pay for equipment that wouldn’t perhaps be necessary except for some developments.”

McDonald noted that DCCs are not typically divided up in this way, and that an increase in population would require more and better firefighting equipment regardless of the height of the buildings.

“Typically, DCC charges are per unit and they are based on the foreseen needs of the community due to growth,” she explained.

“It’s seen as a collective responsibility to pay for those costs.”

The motion comes at a time of great residential growth in the village. In 2018, there were 43 building permits issued in the village, with a value of over $10 million. In 2017, the 36 building permits came to less than $6 million, while the number of building permits in 2016 barely scratched the double digit mark.

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