The North Oyster-Diamond Ratepayers Association has sprung back into action after years of dormancy to increase community involvement and awareness of local issues such as the North Oyster fire hall and water protection.
Nine new directors were elected at the association’s annual general meeting, which was held April 26.
Bob Smits, the newly-elected chair, said the meeting has left him feeling more positive than he has in some time.
“Rob [Hutchins] came and explained the Cowichan Valley Regional District taxation structure so people understood what exactly was or wasn’t included in our taxes.” he said. “We had a good discussion, and I think everybody is on side the idea that we need to have a fire hall that protects the equipment, the firefighters and isn’t going to fall down in the first earthquake.”
On Nov. 19, 2011, a referendum proposal to replace the aging North Oyster fire hall and build a new, second fire hall at Coffin Point at a borrowed cost of up to $3.03 million was defeated 348-251. Another fire hall proposal using the alternative approval process was defeated in 2008.
While no one seems to dispute that the fire hall needs to be replaced, the solution to getting the job done has always been under fire. Smits said the bottom line is working together to put up a fire hall that meets everyone’s needs, is affordable and agreeable to all.
“It’s no good talking about what went wrong before; what we have to do now is find ways to make it right,” he said.
Cowichan Valley Regional District Area H Director Mary Marcotte also attended the meeting and said it was important to clarify some of the taxation information that had gone out prior to the meeting, stating a 49-per-cent increase in taxes.
While further fire hall options are in discussions, Marcotte said there is nothing solidified at the moment.
She welcomed the idea of a positive working environment.
“It has to be community-driven … we’re not going to have another referendum until we’re confident the community supports it. It’s a large amount of money for a small community.”
“If people want to find a way to make the fire hall happen, everybody wins,” she added.
Also on the Ratepayers’ Association’s agenda will be the issue of water security. Smits said the board has some concerns about the Cassidy and Yellow Point aquifers.
“Most of us are on the Yellow Point aquifer, and it’s declined a lot in the last 10 years,” he said. “I think it’s really important that we have a good look at exactly where it is at and what conservation measures, if any, we can take to try to prevent many of us from running out of water.”
The North Oyster-Diamond Ratepayers Association was first founded about 30 years ago over concerns with the Woodley Ridge development.
“We’re there to both act as a watchdog on what our regional district government is doing, and to provide advice and assistance and try to deal with community problems,” Smits said. “We’re also going to complain loudly and make it well known if we think they’re making a mistake.”