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May 27,2010 Tri City News

By Sarah Payne - The Tri-City News
Published: May 27, 2010 2:00 PM
Updated: May 27, 2010 3:13 PM

Port Moody wants to borrow about $20 million to build a new fire hall and will hold a referendum to find out how that sits with its residents.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council debated whether to hold the referendum, estimated to cost about $32,000, or use an alternate approval process, in which residents opposed to the borrowing would have to “opt out” or be considered in favour.

(ed note: see below) Coun. Mike Clay was in favour of going the cheaper alternate approval route, noting that if 10% or more of the electors sign a “no” petition, the city would be required to go to a referendum anyway.

The opt out provision is often referred to as the “negative billing” method and Clay said he initially dismissed the idea until he considered how much support there already is in the community for a new main fire hall.

Coun. Diana Dilworth agreed but said while the need for a new fire hall is a well known issue, the fact the city requires borrowing legislation to fund it is less widely known.

“It’s a new process, we’re a small community and I’d be in support of looking at an alternate approach,” she said.

But Mayor Joe Trasolini favours the traditional referendum, saying residents and council will be dealing with the results of the decision for years.

After asking how much the city would have to borrow — the new fire hall, to be built in the current location at Ioco Road and Murray Street with no new development to help pay for the cost is estimated to cost $16 million to $20 million — Trasolini said he’s “not going to go there on a counter-petition” process.

The $32,000 cost of a referendum is based on the cost of a 2004 byelection. A staff report noted having fewer polling stations could reduce that amount but may also affect voter turnout.

Clay and Dilworth voted against the motion to hold a referendum while Trasolini and councillors Meghan Lahti and Gerry Nuttall voted in favour and councillors Bob Elliott and Karen Rockwell were absent.
(Ed note/MC:  In fact, i did NOT vote against this motion but voted in favour of it (as can be noted in the meeting minutes) .  My comments were actually " that I'm not as opposed to the alternatative process as I was originally, having spoken to enough residents that understand the need for the firehall, and also seeing the low voter turnout in recent by-elections " I want to ensure we are not just wasting taxpayer money on a referendum where we see low turnout and low opposition)
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