BC Hydro is looking to make their short-term lease of the Old Fire Hall on Grafton Road a permanent deal.
The utility company presented a delegation to council on Tuesday to make their case. They focused on the existing services provided to the community, including more than 500 repair calls over the past three years, and how having a permanent base here on the island would further improve responses.
“Something that’s a bottleneck for us logistically is the ferry,” said BC Hydro field manager Tyler Thompson. “If we have a crew that’s here and we have an emergency that we don’t happen to have material for, if we didn’t have a satellite space (Old Fire Hall) that we could get material from, it would mean that we’d have to take a ferry back to our yard, and then a ferry back again.”
Being able to keep more vehicles and equipment on Bowen, and ending workers’ full reliance on BC Ferries was a major theme of the presentation. Thompson explained that not only would it allow faster responses, but also better overnight responses as crews wouldn’t have to wait until morning to bring trucks over on the ferry. They could instead water taxi over at any hour and the vehicles would be here.
Thompson added this would also mean crews wouldn’t have to leave by the last ferry, would take up less space on sailings, and would free up local emergency services such as the Fire Department who might otherwise need to manage a damaged and unsafe site until BC Hydro workers arrive to fix it.
In an emergency the Fire Hall could also be used as a sleep or resting space. “We have had crews that have gotten stuck on the island overnight. They’ve come over at the start of the windstorm, and then the water gets so rough that the water taxi company won’t run them back,” said Thompson.
“We’ve slept in the trucks before, which is not ideal especially because if we run the trucks all night and they start getting low on fuel, we don’t have easy access to refuel the trucks here.”
Nicole Solmundson, asset manager, added that purchasing the lot would allow BC Hydro to design the space to accomplish all of these goals. “It also provides the community with that certainty of our long-term presence on the island,” she said.
The company will now wait and see if the municipality is open to selling the property. Councillors spoke highly of BC Hydro before the delegation departed. They’ve been leasing the current property, which is one of the few on Bowen properly zoned for the company’s operations, for the past several months.
“I’ve heard people complain about multiple dump trucks and logging trucks and everything else taking up a lot of space on the ferry. But BC Hydro crews are heroes, I’ve never heard of a complaint about them,” said Coun. Judith Gedye.
“We’re intimately connected with BC Hydro… I think the community is generally happy with the service that we get from BC Hydro, even with the outage we just had this past weekend,” said Mayor Andrew Leonard.
“Even in the closed Facebook groups of the island we never see, ‘oh BC Hydro isn’t doing enough’. It’s been posted (an outage), they’ve got a crew assigned, it’s going to be resolved at this point. I don’t think there’s been a sentiment that we’re playing second fiddle to the mainland or Metro Vancouver,” said Leonard.