Salt Spring Fire - The System is Broken

In response to the Driftwood article dated December 24, 2014, regarding our fire department quotes Union president Jamie Holmes as saying "The system must be somewhat broken…".  Although our reasons differ, I couldn't agree with him more. The fire department's 2015 budget is $2,529,000 (plus a few hundred thousand for debt servicing on outstanding loans). This is almost four times what it was less than ten years ago, yet the call volume is down. Across the pond, in the municipality of N. Cowichan, the 2014 budget for its fire department came in at half of ours: $1,254,000. Their population is about three times that of Salt Spring; the land mass is the same; the hazards are significantly greater (the Trans Canada Hwy., industry, etc.). There are four fire halls, each with its own Chief, and approximately 130 fire fighters….all of whom (including the fire chiefs) operate on a Paid-on-Call (POC) basis. "Captain" Holmes (he is now Asst. Chief, effective Jan. 1, 2015) asser…
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Transportation Referendum, It's About Time!

It is about time somebody did something about this, That is the first comment I hear when I speak to anyone on Salt Spring about the active transportation referendum to be held this Saturday for Rainbow Road and Lower Ganges Road. The actual question will request the authority to raise The Transportation annual allocation bylaw from $146,250 per year up to $396,250 for each of the next four years. Effectively a $250,000 increase per year until it expires the end of 2018. We then return to $146,250 base funding. The increase amounts to $37.80 per year for the average Salt Spring household according to a formula developed by the BC Assessment Authority. The Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission (SSITC) is required to go to referendum to raise additional funds. We have timed our request to be in conjunction with the local elections since this method dramatically saves on referendum administrative costs. This is why we ask your permission for a four year allocation …
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Transportation Issues on Salt Spring Island

Since 2007, we have had a volunteer commission on Salt Spring Island called the SSITC. The purpose in creating the SSITC was to bring bus service here. The bylaw created to establish the bus service also gave the volunteer SSITC jurisdiction over all sidewalks and roadside paths and parking once the land is signed over by the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) if it is in the right of way (ROW). A certain amount of roadside land is privately owned and other land particularly around the schools is owned by school district #64. In order to have paths built, land is transferred over to local jurisdiction (SSITC). When this happens, informal areas that are presently 'the side of the road' become formalized and 'illegal' nose-in parking is eliminated and replaced by 'legal' parallel parking. In terms of Ganges, most parking is 'illegal' and 'informal'. Yet, as it is a small town bound by ocean and hills, we have no choice. On November 15, 2014 there will be a tax requisition for s…
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Transportation Referendum: the Facts

Ken Marr makes valid points in his opinion piece on the transportation referendum. But the credibility of these points is undermined by omissions and errors of fact. Fact #1: The SSI Transportation Commission (SSITC) referendum is not solely related to a sidewalk on Rainbow; funding will advance progress on multiple safety-driven projects: a sidewalk in the school zone on Rainbow to the pool sidewalk and bike lanes on Lower Ganges from Rainbow/Mahon Hall to the Upper Ganges intersection the Ganges Village Pathway Network plus Ganges Hill. Fact #2: The recent Commission vote on the Rainbow sidewalk marks the fourth time Commissioners and the CRD Director have voted to endorse the project going back to October 2010. Fact #3: A paved sidewalk proposed by CRD consultants was estimated to cost $1.5m. So the School Board and Island Pathways volunteers joined transportation commissioners to craft a new design to reduce the estimated cost by 70%. The design specifies…
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Transportation Referendum an Important Decision

Salt Spring voters face an important decision on November 15. A transportation referendum is on the ballot. Arlene Dashwood's letter to the SSI Transportation Commission pointed out that the transportation sector has been long neglected on this island: "I think we have a big catch-up to deal with as there has not been much done other than upkeep for quite awhile." Transportation infrastructure does not get built for free and it is not cheap. There is no free lunch. Safety and security are the driving factors behind the current SSITC project priorities. The best/worst example is what CRD Director Wayne McIntyre rightly calls a "no brainer" and that is the lack of a sidewalk in the school district. Enhancing transportation infrastructure also contributes directly to both quality of life and economic development on SSI. The SSITC revisited the original consultants' design for Rainbow Road. The reason it did so is that CRD SSI estimated it would cost $1.5m to build …
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Rainbow Road Pathway Referendum

On November 15, Islanders are being asked to approve a bylaw for an additional $1,000,000 in tax for capital projects proposed by the Transportation Committee. This request is unrelated to our bus system and will not affect this program if it is defeated. The committee voted 4-1 to pursue the authority to tax islanders for a gravel pathway unsuitable for road bikes and mobility scooters from Lower Ganges road to the Rainbow Road Pool, estimated to cost about $550,000 or about $250 per foot. The last public presentation on this project was made in the spring of 2010. The proposed project has changed considerably since 2010 and the “drawings are no longer valid,” according to the Senior CRD Manager of the SSI Electoral area. The vote was not very convincing. One member left just before the vote and came back immediately thereafter. Due to two other engagements, the only elected representative to the committee (our CRD Director) could not attend. One member voiced s…
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Salt Spring Island Local Governance

Salt Spring Island[1] (SSI) has an unusual form of local governance, unique in the world to it and 11 other island communities in the southern Gulf Islands[2], an archipelago of 450+ islands in British Columbia[3]. The land zoning and community planning services of these 12 islands are delivered through[4]Islands Trust, created in 1974 by the British Columbia government through the Islands Trust Act[5], to separate land use and planning from delivery of other local government services.[6] The impetus was to curb unbridled development, under way and in planning, at odds with rare, fragile, beautiful ecosystems (notably, coastal Douglas-fir[7] and Garry oak[8]) valued by all British Columbians. The constant press to expand the local tax base would doubtless sacrifice natural landscapes and biodiversity. The mandate of Islands Trust is to "preserve and protect"[9] the environment in balance with broad human needs. The result is a distinctly different local governance system fro…
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Water Treatment Plant Can Be Less Than $6 Million

A lot has happened since the NSSWD ratepayers voted “no” via the “alternate approval process” (AAP) to the borrowing of $10.4 million for the water plant. Since then, we (ad-hoc group of concerned ratepayers) arranged for a large construction company and an extremely experienced consulting company that has been involved in 1500 water and wastewater plants, to meet with the NSSWD trustees. The consultants have issued the following report to me (in quotes): “As discussed, I believe that there are significant savings if the Water Board would pursue ASD (Alternative Service Delivery) options (DB or CM@Risk). Historical data shows that saving of 20-35% compared to traditional Design-Bid-Build procurement are realized. These savings can be achieved without sacrificing performance or quality. For this project, our review indicates that significant savings could be achieved. Specifically, the level of redundancy of installed equipment and storage in the proposed predesign exce…
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Opinion: North Salt Spring Water Works - Inappropriate Use of the ‘Alternative Approval Process’

I am not qualified to argue the merits of the current 10.4 Million dollar proposal by North Salt Spring Water Works but just as Doug Smith wrote in the Driftwood a few weeks ago, the use of the "Alternative Approval Process" instead of a genuine ratepayer's referendum on this important issue is highly inappropriate for a project of this size. With it's huge impact on property taxes in perpetuity we both argue for voting NO on this purely on democratic principles to discourage other groups and improvement districts from attempting this highly suspect tactic to slide through on a mega projects. A lot of people argued about a mere $50/yr tax increase for the recent FireHall which was defeated by fair referendum and I say kudos to the Fire Department for having the temerity to put it out there openly for all ratepayers to decide. Not so with North Salt Spring Waterworks looking for a $300 to $400/yr tax increase! Other groups like the Transportation Committee who dutifully place…
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Real Estate Report: Spring Market in Full Bloom

We are fully planted in the spring sales cycle it seems. The sales number of single family homes is up about 20% over the same year-to-date (YTD) period as last year. Interestingly though, the average price is down. This doesn’t mean that the prices have dropped although they are at best buy levels. It seems that that bottom end of the market is being picked off at a rapid rate. This year the average sale price of a Single Family Detached home is about $540,000 as compared to last year at about $640,000 . A lot of this is due to the carpet sweeping of homes under $500,000 plus the fact that we have had only 3 sales over $1Million as compared to 6 last year for this period. Townhouse buyers seem to have done a shift also. In 2014 ( YTD) we had abut the same number of sales but the average price sold was only $295,000 as compared to almost $412,000 in 2013 (YTD). It isn’t that prices have dropped that much, it’s a different product that sold. This year smaller, lower priced …
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Salt Spring Armageddon Blues

I’m getting worried. Day by day, I’m worrieder and worreider. Minor annoyances like famine in Africa and climate change used to roll off my back without a second thought. But like a tsunami, the bad news just keeps coming, and there is no stopping it. Here is my ‘End of Days’ grocery list as of this morning. Yellowstone is about to blow, with a volcanic kill zone of 600 miles, and devastation extending hundreds of miles past the epicenter. Even with the drift pattern ending around Seattle (thus sparing Saltspring the initial devastation) the ash plume will encircle the earth, initiating a global Ice Age, ending our world as we know it. The deadly nuclear soup from the 2011 Fukoshima melt down continues to pour into the ocean. Prevailing currents are spreading the radiation throughout the Pacific Ocean, soon to be lapping up on our shores, irradiating local seafood. The “Zombie” Boeing 777 Flight 370 that went missing March 8 is fraught with speculation that it has land…
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