Prince George City Council has confirmed that a referendum will take place in late October to re-build the Four Seasons Leisure Pool and Fire Hall #1.
Both projects were part of the
2017-2021 Financial Plan that Council approved earlier this year, but the projects require
approval of the electors because the loans that would enable construction would be paid back over a period of greater than five years. A new fire hall is estimated to cost $15 million, while a new pool has an estimated price tag of $35 million.
Referendum 2017 – New Information
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Fire hall #1
Watch a video about the current state of Fire Hall #1.
Located next to City Hall at 7th and Dominion, the City’s main fire hall is more than 60 years old. Over the last few years, Council has received a Fire Underwriters Survey, a Standards of Cover Review, and a Condition and Functionality Assessment – all of which indicate that Fire Hall #1 is no longer suitable to meet current standards as an emergency response (fire and rescue) facility, emergency operations centre (EOC), and Fire Operations Communications Centre (FOCC). Consistent with the
Standards of Cover report,
Fire Hall #1 must be moved in order to provide better response times to a greater portion of the City, primarily the southern part of the Bowl area. As such, a replacement for Fire Hall #1 is proposed to be built on the south side of Massey, near the intersection with Carney Street. In this new location, the 8-minute response area for Fire Hall #1 would be expanded by about 50% over its current location. Evidence shows that an 8-minute response time is essential for keeping fires contained to a room; after that amount of time, fires can spread to an entire floor.
Along with increasing service to a larger portion of the City, a new fire hall would be built to accommodate modern firefighting equipment. For example, the photo above shows that the City’s platform truck, purchased in 1998, doesn’t even fit in Hall #1, even though it is this hall that is closest to the City’s tallest buildings.
A new Fire Hall #1 is expected to cost about $15 million.
See the report to Council from Dave Dyer, General Manager of Engineering and Public Works, concerning the assessment of Fire Hall #1 and its proposed replacement – February 1, 2017
four seasons leisure pool
Watch a video about the current state of the Four Seasons Leisure Pool.
Located across Dominion Street from Fire Hall #1, the Four Seasons Leisure Pool was built in 1970 and is nearly 50 years old. It is one of two civic pools. The other is the Aquatic Centre located in Exhibition Park.
The most recent review of the condition of the Four Seasons is the
Aquatic Needs Assessment, which was completed in 2016. It identified the need for a pool replacement.
The report found that the Four Seasons is highly valued for its location and the programs it offers, but that it is nearing the end of its service life. Accessibility, especially for people with mobility challenges, is inadequate, and parts of the facility – including the deck tiles – do not meet modern safety standards. In addition, the building's structural and operating systems require significant investment beyond routine maintenance. In fact, the Aquatic Needs Assessment identified retrofits totaling nearly $10.3 million.
The Four Seasons received more than 120,000 visits in 2016 and provides nearly 80% of the swimming lessons delivered in Prince George.
While a site has not yet been selected, the City is aiming to re-build the Four Seasons in the vicinity of the current pool. The replacement cost is estimated to be $35 million.
See the report to Council from City Manager Kathleen Soltis concerning the Aquatic Needs Assessment and the recommendation to replace the Four Seasons Leisure Pool – January 23, 2017
The referendum has been scheduled for October 28, 2017, subject to Council giving first three readings to loan authorization bylaws and obtaining approval from the Inspector of Municipalities for these bylaws.
Further information regarding the 2017 referendum will be forthcoming.
Questions and Answers
Q: what is a referendum? are the results binding?
A: Under various sections of the Community Charter and the Local Government Act, a municipality is sometimes required to obtain the approval of its electors for a proposed bylaw, agreement, or some other matter. In the case of the loan authorization bylaws for the Four Seasons Leisure Pool and Fire Hall #1 replacement projects, Council is seeking approval of the electors through an actual vote on the bylaws. This is referred to in the legislation as “assent voting” and is also commonly referred to as a “referendum”. Referendums can be held in conjunction with a local election, but may take place at other times as well. To ensure fairness, openness, and accessibility, assent voting (referendums) are conducted in accordance with very strict rules set out in the Local Government Act, Community Charter, and the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act. The referendum concerning these two loan authorization bylaws is binding on Council in the sense that unless the majority of votes is in favour of a bylaw, Council may not borrow the funds under that bylaw.
Q: Can I vote for each building individually or will both be wrapped up in a single question?
A: Because the City will require a separate loan authorization bylaw for each building, the ballot will include two separate questions: one for the re-building of the Four Seasons Leisure Pool and one for the re-building of Fire Hall #1. They will be framed as yes/no questions. The final wording of the questions will be determined by Council later in the summer.
Q: how much would these buildings cost me?
A: Taxes are based on the assessed value of each individual property so the answer is different for everybody. Nevertheless, the City has estimated what the cost will be per $100,000 of assessed value. For a new Fire Hall, this amount is $8.45 per year. A new Four Seasons Pool would cost $19.71 per $100,000 of assessed value per year.
If your property is assessed at $300,000, for example, the annual cost of a new Fire Hall would be $25.35. A new pool would be $59.13. The total increase on your property taxes for both would be $84.48.
These figures are based on a 20-year loan and an interest rate of 3%.
Q: who does the city borrow from? do we get a good rate when we borrow money?
A: The City borrows from the
Municipal Finance Authority
, which pools the borrowing and investment needs of BC local governments through a collective structure. The MFA has a triple-A credit rating, providing the City access to capital financing at the lowest rates possible.
Q: What other long-term debt is the city currently carrying?
A: Some examples include the RCMP detachment, the Aquatic Centre, and some sewer and water projects. The full list of these projects, the outstanding balances, the annual servicing payments, and the date of loan maturity is found in Schedule 11 of the City’s Financial Statements, which are part of the
Q: What would happen to the existing buildings if the referendum passes?
A: Council must still determine what will happen to each of the current buildings. It’s possible that they will be demolished, but only after their replacements are built. The properties would be retained by the City.
Q: when would construction begin?
A: In the event that Council pursues the projects, construction would likely begin in 2019.
Q: Why wouldn’t the new pool be located in Carrie Jane Gray Park to align with other recreation services such as Masich Place Stadium and the YMCA?
A: The Aquatic Needs Assessment that was concluded last year reported that there was a strong preference for the Four Seasons Pool to remain downtown and near to where it is currently. Feedback during last year’s Talktober also indicated a preference for keeping the Four Seasons downtown. The City believes that the pool is an important element in a vibrant downtown.
Q: what will happen if people vote no?
A: Neither Fire Hall #1 nor the Four Seasons Pool will last forever. In the event that their replacements are not approved in the 2017 referendum, administration and Council will need to consider alternatives for the sustainability of the facilities and their services. This would involve a sizeable financial investment. The Aquatic Needs Assessment, for example, identified costly renovations to the Four Seasons Pool that would need to occur for it to continue operating.
Request a presentation
Organizations can request a presentation about the referendum. Simply
submit this form to request a presentation.
Working the Referendum
Prequalification of Election Officials
The City of Prince George is compiling a list of persons interested in working as an election official to assist with referenda and general elections in 2017 and 2018. Attendance by election officials at training sessions for each voting opportunity is mandatory and rates of pay will be established for each role. If you are interested in working during the referendum and/or local election, please complete and submit an application detailing your electoral work experience and any other work experience that may be applicable.
Qualifications include excellent verbal communication and organization skills, good attention to detail, basic numeracy and analytical skills, patience when interacting with a variety of people during a long day, ability to understand and follow directions, written instructions or checklists, and willingness to take responsibility for the ballot boxes and voting materials.
Persons interested in working during the upcoming October 2017 Referendum are encouraged to submit their application before
5:00 pm on Monday, July 31, 2017. Applications may be submitted by email or mail/drop off to the address noted below with attention to:
Maureen Connelly, Deputy Chief Election Officer:
1100 Patricia Blvd, Prince George, BC V2L 3V9
Apply online for position as an election official for the 2017 Referendum.
The next voting opportunity is the
Referendum to be held Saturday, October 28, 2017
. Voting locations are open from 8:00 a.m. to
8:00 p.m. Election Officials are required to be available from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on all voting days for which they are scheduled. Generally, election officials will be responsible for administering voting at an assigned voting station, issuing ballots to voters, accounting for and securing all voting materials, and conducting initial count at the end of General Voting Day. Further information on advanced voting dates and voting locations will be provided to those applicants shortlisted for consideration of employment.
Presiding Election Official (PEO)
The Presiding Election Official (PEO) is responsible for the conduct of the vote at his/her assigned voting location including:
- ensuring, as far as possible, that the applicable legislation and bylaws are complied with including, voter registration process, access to the voting place, or voting;
- supervising staff at the voting place, assigning tasks to other election officials and making appointments as required;
- ensuring all used and unused ballots and ballot boxes are secure at all times; and
- ensuring that the results of voting at the voting place are tallied properly and provided to the Chief Election Officer as instructed.
Alternate Presiding Election Official (APEO)
The Alternate Presiding Election Official (APEO) assists the PEO. In the PEO's absence, the APEO assumes the duties and responsibilities of the PEO. APEO's may be assigned tasks such as:
- assisting with the setup of the voting location;
- registration of voters; and
- ensuring campaigning restrictions on voting day are observed.
Election Officials (EO)
The Election Official (EO) assists the PEO and APEO. An EO may be assigned tasks such as:
- assisting with the setup and takedown of the voting locations;