Signs stolen on eve of vote for $5.49 million View Royal firehall

View Royal volunteer firefighters filed a police complaint Thursday when their signs endorsing a taxpayer loan of $5.49 million to build a new fire hall were destroyed.

Firefighters aggressively campaigned in the past several weeks to get residents to vote in a referendum taking place on Saturday.

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If approved, the vote will authorize the municipality to borrow the money for a new fire hall.

The campaign included canvassing neighbourhoods, posting signs throughout the community and appearing in a controversial video that illustrates the poor condition of the current hall at 280 Island Highway.

But vandals had their say in the dispute this week, said Fire Chief Paul Hurst. About 20 of the 60-by-60 centimetre signs were removed from boulevards on Helmcken Road some time before 9 p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, say volunteer firefighters who drove by the site at those times.

“This looks like a very specific and targeted removal,” Hurst said.

Critics of the new public safety building say they do not know anyone who would have removed the signs.

Kim Saladana has been the loudest skeptic of the proposed building, slated to be built across the highway from the current fire hall. She blames vandals for the damage.

“Every campaign like this and every election sees this kind of vandalism,” she said. “Come on now. Blaming the ‘No’ side for this makes no sense.”

Saladana was part of a group of residents who collected signatures from 1,300 eligible voters to put a stop to the municipality’s initial attempt to borrow $8 million.

With more than double the signatures required to kill the loan, the group forced View Royal’s council to revisit its plan.

After a few changes, the municipality reduced the estimated borrowing amount by modifying plans and using other sources of money such as casino revenue.

But no matter where the money comes from, Saladana said taxpayers are taking the hit.

“At the end of the day, every dollar spent on the fire hall is money they can’t spend anywhere else,” she said.

She supports building a new fire hall, but has asked council to show the community other, less expensive options.

View Royal chief administrative officer Kim Anema said other options were considered, but the staff and council want to invest in a high-quality building that will not need expansion for decades.

“This is a one-shot deal,” he said. “We believe that if we are going to build a building, it’s got to be for the long term.”

Polling stations are at View Royal Elementary School, 218 Helmcken Road, and Eagle View Elementary School, 97 Talcott Road.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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