Amalgamation FAQ

Proposed Amalgamation of Gillies Bay and Van Anda Improvement Districts and Fire Departments into the “Texada Island Improvement District & Volunteer Fire Department”

FAQs

If the Gillies Bay and Van Anda Improvement Districts/Volunteer Fire Departments were to amalgamate into a single Texada Island Improvement District and Volunteer Fire Department, what would that look like?

Below, the GBID has compiled a list of frequently asked questions.  We believe that this option would best serve Texada Island.

The GBID has held several meetings from 2012 – 2013 (specifically addressing the VFD amalgamation), and we continue to provide updates at our regular meetings as well as via our newsletters, to successfully engage our rate-payers on this issue.  We are grateful for the residents who have attended the meetings and provided us with their questions and concerns.  We strongly encourage all rate-payers to attend meetings, sign up for our newsletter and keep current via our website, on these important issues.  These are your services, and you can’t be heard if you don’t participate!  Minutes from our previous meetings are available here.

Key Points:
1. Surrendering our services to the Powell River Regional District does not solve our critical manpower problems.
2. Our most critical problems cannot be solved without amalgamation (ie: manpower).
3. By amalgamating Gillies Bay and Van Anda Improvement Districts and Volunteer Fire Departments, we will strengthen our communities and unify Texada Island, while delivering high quality services economically.

Our Proposal:
Both Improvement Districts amalgamate their services under a single ‘Texada Island Improvement District’. The new Improvement District would have two zones.  Your taxes will support your zone (ie: parcel taxes paid by Van Anda residents would go to Van Anda’s water system, not Gillies Bay’s).  You will not notice any changes in the delivery of water or fire protection services.  We could explore the option of expanding our fire protection services, to bring in more volunteers and share costs. The end result will be unified island services that retain our local autonomy.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: 

Current Improvement District and Volunteer Fire Department Structure

Proposed Improvement District and VFD Structure

Would a pay for services I don’t receive (such as water fees or fire protection?)

No. Just as it is now, residents would only pay for fire protection if they are located within a fire protection district. Residents would only pay water tolls if they are connected to the system and have water delivered to their property; and parcel taxes if they live within the existing water service area. Water tolls and parcel taxes are billed directly by the Improvement District – they are not a ‘hidden fee’ on your rural property tax notice. The fees payable to the Gillies Bay Improvement District on your rural tax notice cover fire protection only.


Would I pay for services in Gillies Bay, if I live in Van Anda, and vice versa?

No.  The ‘Texada Island Improvement District’ would have two ‘zones’.  One zone would cover Van Anda, the other, Gillies Bay.  Each community would pay for their own independent water system.  Savings could be generated by reducing duplicated expenses.  Reserve funds (savings) would be held separately for each zone, and taxation would continue to be based on the individual service area.  Residents would not be expected to pay for or subsidize the other zone’s water system.  Taxation for fire services would continue to go through the surveyor of taxes, as they have historically.

Both communities are different – how would an amalgamation work?

It doesn’t take identical communities or services to make an efficient, unified organization. The operating costs and managerial demands of the two communities are the same and that is what can be combined into a less expensive structure.The similarities in departments, water systems, infrastructure, and operations between Van Anda and Gillies Bay far outnumber the differences.  The key point to remember is that end-users (receiving water services, street lighting or fire protection) would not notice a change in the delivery of service. The changes would happen on an administrative level.


Why not convert one or both fire departments to the PRRD?

The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development has expressed that converting our fire services to the Powell River Regional District may not be our best option.  It was the Ministry of CSCD who suggested the amalgamation of the two Improvement Districts.

The GBID has explored the PRRD’s existing fire services (all of which have been under the PRRD auspices for a minimum of 30 years).  These departments have been suffering from the same problems we are, for many years.  You can read an independent review of the PRRD Fire Services here.  While the PRRD may be working to correct these issues, we see no evidence to suggest that converting our services to the PRRD would solve any of our problems, at this time.

There is no compelling reason at all, to move the administration of our services off-island.  We believe that this would only increase the expenses of those services, as well as negatively impact communication and cooperation between water and fire protection services.

What if one community surrenders their fire department to the PRRD before the departments amalgamate?

It is critical that both communities amalgamate the fire departments.  The primary reason for this is that our aging and declining population will continue to hamper our ability to recruit new, and retain existing, volunteer fire fighters. We are required to maintain a roster with a specific number of volunteers.  Failure to do so could put us at risk of losing our FUS rating, which could result in a loss of fire protection services in one or both communities. Amalgamating is the best way to ensure that we stay compliant with our roster, as we would be combining both community’s volunteers under a single island-wide fire department’s roster requirement (vs trying to maintain the roster requirement in two separate departments).  Amalgamating first is the key, because without amalgamation the manpower problem will continue; and no matter who manages the departments, they can’t change our island’s demographics.

What concerns has the Ministry brought forward?

The Ministry expressed to us that certain factors may prevent a beneficial alignment between Texada fire services and the PRRD, such as:

1. Texada’s geographic disconnection from Powell River

2. Small size/limited capacity of Powell River Regional District

3. Limited services provided by Powell River Regional District

4. It does not make sense to transfer one service (fire), while leaving  the other service (water) with the Improvement District.

If we don’t surrender our fire services to the PRRD this time, does that mean we lose this option forever?

The possibility of a conversion to the Regional District is still open to us in the future, if we determine that it’s necessary.  Amalgamating the Improvement Districts will likely be a solution in itself, but can also be an incremental step toward Regional District management in the future.

Do tax-payers get to vote on this?

Yes.  The choice as to whether or not to amalgamate would be brought to rate-payers/tax-payers in the form of a petition or referendum (a vote).  The Ministry would advise us on the appropriate way to proceed.  No matter what, the decision rests with the tax-payers and rate-payers in Gillies Bay, Van Anda and potential included service areas; not the boards of trustees alone.

When would we vote?

As soon as we have a clear path forward, and send a letter of intent to the Ministry, from both Boards of Trustees (GBID and VAID), we could begin the process.  We cannot move forward without consent from both Boards of Trustees.  That is why it is critical for rate-payers to contact their Improvement District Board of Trustees and/or attend their Improvement District meetings.  Be heard, Texada – this is your choice!

Would both fire halls remain in each community?

Yes, both fire halls and fire trucks would continue to reside and operate in each community as they do now.  By amalgamating the improvement districts we would combine training and equipment (while maintaining the two existing fire halls) – to have a larger, better equipped force, able to work together even more effectively.

Would rates increase if the IDs are amalgamated?  

Along with expense reductions, we would address our current fire protection boundaries in an effort to include new properties and eliminate the ‘gaps’ in our fire protection coverage.  Consolidating and expanding our fire protection boundaries would increase our volunteer pool and our tax base.  An increased tax base means more people contributing to the costs of operating the fire service.  Fire protection coverage means cheaper insurance premiums to properties that were previously excluded.  It’s a win-win!  The maps below are an example of proposed boundary extensions.



 

 

 

 

 

How would this affect rate-payers?

Residents would not notice any changes in the delivery of services.  Changes would be largely administrative and operational (behind the scenes).  What residents would notice is an increased quality of service, and better operating efficiency as a whole – which is a big step in the right direction.

How would amalgamation benefit me?

The GBID believes that it is in our tax-payer’s best interests to maintain local independence and autonomy over our island’s essential water and fire protection services.  Our Trustees and staff are resident tax-payers who also rely on these services, and are committed to maintaining a high level of service and quality, while keeping costs within reason.

What are some examples of cost savings or expense reductions that could occur with an amalgamation?

Amalgamation would allow us to consolidate administrative and operational manpower and expenses.  Staff would continue to work together but in their area of expertise; to accomplish more, for the same money.  Instead of two administrators working on the same tasks (ie: both maintaining websites, both drafting the same bylaws, both doing the same bookkeeping) in two different systems, they could divide tasks and share the load – which would allow more time spent on areas that have lacked over the years (due to budgetary constraints or time constraints).

Amalgamating would also help us to achieve certain objectives which are only available through amalgamation.  One example is the current requirement for both departments to maintain the same identical trucks and equipment.  If the two departments were amalgamated, these requirements could be reduced to that of a single department.  A new truck costs in excess of $300,000. Maintaining duplicates of these trucks for an island our size is unnecessary and expensive.

Why can’t we go on as we always have?

The size of our island community does not warrant the duplication of expenses and manpower necessary to maintain in two separate improvement districts.  Continuing on as we always have is an option, at least for the time being.  However, if our population continues to decline (and it’s not getting any younger!), we may face critical manpower shortages.  We cannot maintain our fire services without adequate volunteers.  Maintaining status quo will also be more costly than amalgamating.

What form would local government take under this structure?

We would maintain an independent and locally governed Texada Island Improvement District and Volunteer Fire Department.  This entity would be fairly governed by representatives from each service area.  This would leave decision-making with residents of Texada – not with a senior government, in a different (off-island) community.

If residents of Texada Island wish to explore the idea of amalgamating the Improvement Districts, can the exploration proceed without the consent of both Improvement Districts?

No.  The Ministry has expressed very clearly that they will only continue exploration of this option with the consent of both Boards of Trustees. The Boards of Trustees are your elected officials, and as such represent you, the rate-payers. Attend your Improvement District meetings. Let your voice be heard!

Can either Improvement District go ahead with the surrender of their fire department, without tax-payer consent?

No.  This decision also rests with the tax-payers.  The Board of Trustees cannot make this decision on their own.
The GBID has identified far more benefits in amalgamating our Improvement Districts/Fire Departments here on Texada, than any other strategy.  Converting our fire department to the Regional District does not address most of our existing problems.

Contact your Improvement District Board of Trustees at: 

Gillies Bay residents: email: info@gillies-bay.ca ; Phone: 604-486-7757; Mail: at PO Box 102, Gillies Bay, BC V0N 1W0 to voice your opinion.

Van Anda residents: email: bobtimms@twincomm.ca  (VAID Chair); Phone: 604-486-0449; Mail: PO Box 115, Van Anda, BC V0N 3K0 to voice your opinion.

For more input, fill out our SURVEY: The Future of Texada Fire Services!