Election 2014: Fire hall project heats up Osoyoos election

Town of Osoyoos: two of five Osoyoos council members retiring from politics and fire hall expected to be a hot-button issue.

Two of five members of Osoyoos council are retiring from politics, but the man in the top job isn’t done just yet in a town where the proposed construction of a new fire hall is expected to be a hot-button issue ahead of the Nov. 15 vote.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting election,” said Stu Wells, who this week filed the paperwork necessary to seek a third consecutive term as mayor.

He said he has unfinished business to attend to before he leaves office.

“There are a couple of quite exciting projects out there. I’ve been dealing with them so far, and I would certainly provide a level of continuity,” said Wells, who would not go into details about the plans.

“They would be economic development,” he allowed. “They’re jobs, that’s for sure.”

Meanwhile, CJ Rhodes and Sue McKortoff have confirmed their intention to run again for council, but the other two members of the group have opted out.

Michael Ryan, who served two terms, said in a speech at a council meeting last month that a desire to spend more time with his family, plus the switch to four-year terms, contributed to his decision to step aside from politics.

Mike Plante also cited family priorities, in addition to his desire to grow a new business partnership, as factors in his choice to quit after one term.

Besides electing a council, Osoyoos residents will also be asked if they support the town borrowing $6 million to build a new fire hall.

Council had sought voter assent through the alternate approval process, which requires 10 per cent of the electorate to sign a form stating their opposition in order to trigger a full referendum.

The threshold in Osoyoos was 474 people, but opponents of the fire hall project managed to collect 1,019 legitimate signatures.

Faced with that level of opposition, council voted this week to send the plan to referendum, rather than back to the drawing board.

“It’s the citizens’ choice,” said Wells, adding the Osoyoos Fire Department is in favour of putting the project to a proper vote as is.

“They want it to go forward with the project intact, mostly because of the training facility and some of the uses they deem necessary. I’m not going against the firemen,” said Wells.

He said the hall, which would be located on 74th Avenue on land the town purchased five years ago, would include training equipment needed to attract and retain new volunteers.

“Some people say, ‘Well, you can put up a hall for $4 million or $3 million.’ And, yeah, you can, but it just houses vehicles,” Wells said.

“We really need a training centre to keep our young firemen both enthused and safe.”