my response to Ryan, and board
Thank you for your replies to my three emails, Ryan. I'll try to make this a short reply, with a minimum of new questions. I hope it will give you my perspective, which I believe is similar to that of many Lasqueti people.
Many of your concerns seem to be paper-in-the office based. I believe that the Asset Management program is totally this. Much of your certification and standards work is centered on making sure that there is paperwork that indicates all the bases are covered and all the forms filled in and all the requirements are met. This is not important to the actual ability of our fire department to deal with situations here on Lasqueti, whether structural fires, wild fires or other emergencies. We have lots of very competent people here, and not all of the competencies can be demonstrated on certificates and other paperwork.
Our fire department began as a group of individuals working together to get some pumps and hoses and hand tools to fight fires that threatened homes. Our goal was not to be able to fight house fires, though when they occurred, we hoped to be able to stop the fires from burning up the forest and the rest of the island.
In recent years the community has not been consulted about the fire department, except that we were asked to accept NI911 for emergency dispatch, because Telus was ending their pager services. We didn't think that was good or affordable enough, and had to work very hard to convince the PRRD board to allow us to come up with other options. The E-DAC committee did a thorough job, and the board apparently was very impressed with their report. You have disparaged the report, and seem to want the board to ignore it.
We want and need to be consulted and involved in decisions about our fire department. It isn't a standard, downtown fire department, and probably shouldn't be one. But we want to have the discussion and examine the options and strategies to achieve whatever seems best and most workable. This includes the fire hall which you have proposed and has been the source of so much concern and ill feeling. It also includes future equipment, especially fire trucks. While a new fire truck is great, the cost is huge, maybe un-affordable for us. Maybe we'd be better off with multiple old, out-of-date fire trucks, especially since we don't have many fires to fight.
These sorts of things need to be discussed. You could be very helpful to let us know what the options are, and what other fire departments are doing, and even what the standards are. We are the ones that will decide what we are willing to do, and what we want our regional district to fund and tax us for. We need to be involved in formulating and recommending any assets management plans, and the taxation and reserves to accomplish whatever we agree needs doing.
You can not be in charge of the Lasqueti fire department. You can't make it run. You need to involve the community, not only in actually running our fire department, but also in the planning and recommendations to the board about it. You can not, without the support of the Lasqueti community, make any recommendations to the board unless they have the support of the community, and your recommendations must accomplish what the community agrees to.
It seems that you have tried to increase our fire department budget as much as possible. It is too much for the taxpayers to bear, especially without meaningful consultation. Our taxes, with needed increases to the waste management budget and your increases, will go up just under 25% this year. That's way too much.
It isn't good enough for you to only work with Richard. Richard is our fire chief, but he is not closely connected with the community, and he is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being fire chief. We are trying to organize support for him and the fire department. You have an obligation to involve the community, especially if you want the fire department to make changes and to grow in directions that will take money and other support from Lasqueti.
On the minor point of the administration fee. In the past, the cost of regional district administration was, I understand, covered by an allocation of 8% from each service budget. Now the cost of emergency services and waste management administration (at least a good part of it) is included explicitly included in the budgets, along with the 8% allocation. It seems that the percentage should have gone down at least somewhat.
I quote your response to me on public engagement below. For this reason, I am copying this email to the members of the board. I am hoping that in the immediate future, you will begin to engage with the community about our fire department plans and budgets. Even though it is not a new initiative, there are big changes being made and advocated for, and we want to be involved.
Thank you very much, Peter
"Public engagement is a strategic priority for the PRRD and staff are frequently involved in various public engagement initiatives, particularly related to new initiatives. If you have concerns about the level of public engagement then I encourage you to please direct that concern to members of the Board."