Welcome, visitor!   Register   Login

Post an Ad
Menu Post an Ad

Incorporation: Fire and Water – Extreme Hazard

    Editorial & Opinions, Governance & Politics    August 9, 2017

One of the reasons I will vote Yes is that there are problems that cannot be fixed under our current system. It doesn’t matter how optimistic one is. There are structural impediments built in today that no amount of hard work or co-operation or good will can fix. Let me describe just one.

We have a fire department operated by what is called an improvement district, an archaic entity that has some of the smatterings of local government but that was really intended for tiny operations like three farmers sharing a well and a pumphouse, not performing important public safety tasks in a community of 10,000 strong. The fire district’s purpose – and this comes from legislation and what are called letters patent – is to prevent and if necessary suppress damage from uncontrolled fires. To fight fires, you need specialized equipment, well trained staff, and water. The fire district can buy equipment and train staff, but relies on others for water.

On Salt Spring, the water comes from the water districts, which are a combination of improvement districts and CRD service areas. The water districts and CRD service areas are legal entities unrelated to the fire district. They also have defined purposes that come from legislation and their letters patent which, paraphrased and in brief, amount to “supplying potable water to the ratepayers”. They have no responsibility to provide what are called “fire flows”. Their only brief is to ensure that something that can be safely drunk or bathed in comes out of a ratepayer’s tap, and their responsibility is to do this at minimal cost to the people who pay the bills.

You pay your fire taxes. You pay your water taxes and bills. There’s a fire hydrant just up the road. Why does our current governance structure imperil you?

Because, if your house catches fire, no one is responsible for an adequate water supply being on tap from that hydrant. The fire district doesn’t own and has no responsibility for the hydrant or the lines that carry water to it. The water district’s responsibility is to keep drinkable water coming out of taps along the line, not providing a flow out of the hydrant if the fire department needs to use it.

These two local government functions – and most would agree they’re both important – are run by separate and independent entities, each of which is accountable to a different electorate. The fire department has no power to demand well maintained hydrants on cross-connected mains with adequate pressure from an independent body that is responsible to a different set of residents. The water district has no authority to improve already costly infrastructure to serve a purpose outside its limited and legislated mandate.

This is the situation we have today. I call it silo government. You, the person whose house is on fire, will fall through the gap between the two silos. The silos have different and in some ways opposing legal responsibilities. Putting water on your house in quantity when required is no one’s responsibility.

This would not happen if both of these functions were controlled by one body, as happens in a municipality. A municipality responsible both for drinking water and fire protection wouldn’t build a water distribution system that would support only one of the functions. A council would have to be criminal or incompetent to do that. Possible? Sure. Likely? No.

Under the current system? It’s baked in, and there is nobody to blame.

By Norbert Schlenker, Fire District Trustee, 2015-16

No Tags


Community News

  • Incorporation: Email to a Friend

    by on August 18, 2017 - Comments

    I don’t think there are meaningful answers to the questions you have raised. I think the actual vision for Salt Spring is still best articulated in the Islands Trust object: “to preserve and protect the environment and amenities of the Gulf Islands for all British Columbians.” I haven’t heard any articulation of another vision for […]

  • Incorporation: Development Pressure Inhe...

    by on August 18, 2017 - Comments

    First, please just grab a coffee and sit on a bench in centennial park, or have a seat at Barb’s or T’J’s or in your own kitchen, and hear me out.. actually, in this case, read me out. Let’s put the “fearmongering” accusation aside for just a moment and explore the factual relationship of development […]

  • Incorporation: A Chance to Express Who W...

    by on August 18, 2017 - Comments

    What an opportunity we have before us! We have a chance to truly express who we are, our past and importantly, our values as they relate to our future. Now we have the opportunity to dispel the undeserved title: C.A.V.E. dwellers (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) by spearheading the measured and exciting change that will propel […]

  • Incorporation: Order Vs. Chaos

    by on August 17, 2017 - Comments

    For me the Sept 9th referendum is a vote of order-vs-chaos. Salt Spring’s quaint hodge-podge of electoral and improvement districts represents anything but order, in my opinion. It’s a creature with many tentacles but no brain. Just look around: No acceptable traffic plan in Fulford village; inadequately marked walking trails; none of the roads leading […]

  • Incorporation: Harold Swierenga is Votin...

    by on August 17, 2017 - Comments

    Listen to the wisdom of our elders: Harold Swierenga, has been a Co-op Farm Director, Commercial Farmer, Economics Professor, and has a ton experience in local governance. 8 years experience as municipal councillor and reeve of municipality in Ontario. Served as Warden (head) of Lanark County Council. Served as a director of Federation of Canadian […]

  • Incorporation: The More Beautiful Our He...

    by on August 17, 2017 - Comments

    In The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles Eisenstein very clearly distinguishes that we are in the process of transitioning from an Old Economy, that ensures our demise, to a New Economy that is essential, not optional, if we are to survive as a species. (He is very clear that the transition […]

  • Incorporation: Where Is the Larger Voice...

    by on August 17, 2017 - Comments

    Salt Spring is in the midst of an incorporation campaign as everyone on our island knows. But who else knows? I love all our Gulf Islands and want to protect them all from over and inappropriate development. I have a hard time abiding views of others who can only see what is good for them […]

  • Incorporation: The Facts About Our Roads...

    by on August 17, 2017 - Comments

    The Final Incorporation Study Report repeats, at least eight times, that Salt Spring taxpayers put pay $90,000 more per year into the in Provincial Rural Taxes than they get back in road works. How accurate is this? The report estimates that an average of $1,360,000 was spent annually in routine maintenance in recent years, or […]

  • Incorporation: Response to Open Letter t...

    by on August 16, 2017 - Comments

    A group of ex-Fire Board Trustees have written a letter to the current trustees chastising them for not coming out in favour of incorporation after an attempt was made to strong arm them to do so. Our current trustees sensibly waited to hear what the “no” folks had to say. That group didn’t ask the […]