In recent Council meetings it would seem that some of our present Council, and city staff, are firmly committed to sell our Heritage Fire Hall #1 building. It appears the time is now for you to ask Cranbrook citizens for input into this momentous decision to determine the fate of OUR heritage building. I will include a brief description of its inception for those of you who may not have heard of the building’s early history.
In 1929 the new Council, under the leadership of Mayor Roberts, broached the subject of the need for a new fire hall. By early March Council had decided to draw up a by-law to raise $31,000, by the sale of debentures, to build the fire hall and to submit the question to the ratepayers for their approval.
Complete details of the By-Law No. 388 were printed in the March 14th Cranbrook Courier. Cranbrook citizens were given the opportunity to vote, by ballot, to accept this By-Law on March 25th. The vote carried with a resounding 90% in favour of borrowing the funds so that Cranbrook could now have a fire hall worthy of the growing community. Mayor Roberts and his Council enjoyed the confidence of the ratepayers.
This was to be a totally Cranbrook-built fire hall. The design was by City Superintendent Philpot and the City Works Department, plans drawn up by Colborne, a Cranbrook businessman, and local builder Jones won the construction bid and used locally processed lumber and Cranbrook bricks.
The Cranbrook Courier of November 11, 1929 proudly displayed a photo of the new fire hall labelling it “The Lasting Structure”. Since then the paper frequently reported on Cranbrook’s fire hall, the men who worked there and the adjoining gardens. It became a place people were encouraged to visit. For several years it also provided a home for Fire Chief Gordon and his family.
Through the ensuing years Councils had the foresight to purchase the properties belonging to MacPherson’s Funeral Home, the Baptist Church, the Knights of Pythias building, the Masonic Hall and a small home that was preventing the City owning a continuous frontage on 11th Avenue. How fortunate our City Fathers of the day had this foresight as it allowed our City Hall to be expanded, a small park to be developed, parking for the firemen and lots on which to build our present Police Station. In 1986 our Fire Hall #1 gained protection by Heritage Designation.
Our present Council, and staff, appear to be in a rush to push through the sale of the Fire Hall. I was amazed to read Kevin Weaver’s report, on the City webpage, recommending the building be sold and this was before any Cranbrook groups had the opportunity to make presentations to Council. Other recent Councils would have suggested that the question of what to do with this Heritage building be passed along to their Wellness and Heritage Committee for input. These Council committees were set up to provide exactly this type of feedback to you. In your rush to put the building on the market you seem to have precluded taking this obvious step.
So now the time appears to have come for you to decide, what should happen to our building. I have not heard any mention of going back to the public for our thoughts on this. The citizens of Cranbrook voted to borrow the money to build this civic building. Even if present Council does not legally have to reengage the public, and gain its input, surely you and your present Council members must feel that it’s only morally right to do so.
So please, as a member of Council, don’t be too ready to break up the area of OUR city-owned properties or to dispose of one of OUR few remaining taxpayer-owned heritage buildings. I ask you to carefully consider whether, or not, you undo the careful foresight that has been displayed by the many previous City representatives in your Council positions.