On October 18, 2017, a delegation of Saltair voters presented the Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC) of the CVRD with a petition signed by 628 Saltair residents, which had been produced in just three weeks. The petition asked for a referendum to establish whether the community does or does not support spending Saltair tax and grant money on the Saltair Community Centre (the former Mt. Brenton Elementary School).
The 628 signatures represent approximately one-half of all the eligible voters in Saltair. CVRD Area G Director, Mel Dorey, also signed the petition. When the petition was presented, the delegation pointed out that only 541 Saltairians voted in the 2014 election and invited questions. None of the directors at the meeting asked the delegation a question. The response was surprising in its absence.
Area D Director Lori Iannidinardo did ask questions. However, she directed them to the EASC Chair. Director Iannidinardo asked about the CVRD process for dealing with a petition with this substantial number of signatures. She expressed concerns about ensuring a fair process and whether the community was being treated fairly. The response from the CVRD CAO Brian Carruthers indicated that the CVRD staff would take the petition into consideration.
In effect, the petition asks the CVRD to give the whole community a voice. The building was purchased as part of the Mt. Brenton Elementary School property without a referendum, business plan, needs assessment (identification of the community needs), or building condition assessment. We waited three years for the expert building condition assessment, which just cost us $16,000. The MAE condition assessment report ( McCuaig Report 170721) provides a phased approach for major maintenance and updating requirements over 10 years. It says we need to spend $750,000 this year, $1.6 Million by the end of 2021 and $3.1 Million by the end of 2026.
Many residents told the petitioners water was their priority. They did not want to spend $3 Million Plus on the building while facing the hurdle of finding or providing money for Saltair Water System distribution and water-filtration upgrades. Other residents said the building should be torn down. They just did not want their taxation or grant money spent on the building. Some thought a smaller, newer, less-expensive, uncontaminated community hall would be more appropriate.
628 Saltair voters signed the petition. The Saltair voters have spoken as a community. They want a referendum. Will Director Dorey go to the CVRD Board to ask for a referendum? We will have to wait and see. Saltair residents have spoken loudly and clearly. Now it is up to Director Dorey to show he is listening by starting the process that will provide a referendum.