The Deka Lake and District Ratepayers Association have been evicted from the Deka Lake Volunteer Fire Department Hall and its surrounding property.
The ratepayers received the eviction notice in mid-August, according to vice president Chris McGregor. As of mid-September, they’ve moved all of their resources including their recycling program, a hot water tank and a storage container off of the hall’s 14-acre property and into the community.
“We went to a lawyer and we made the decision not to fight this legally under his recommendation,” McGregor said, adding the group is clearing their stuff. “It was a lot of work ‘cause we had to find somewhere to put it. People are letting us use their residences; one lady has given under her garage for the winter to do the recycling but it’s only a short-term solution.”
For the last year, the ratepayers were in an ongoing dispute with the Cariboo Regional District over the use of Deka Lake’s fire hall. Up until 2020, the community was allowed to use the hall to host events with the ratepayers running pancake breakfasts, car shows and the recycling program.
This changed in 2021 when the CRD board determined that the dual use of the hall was a potential safety and liability issue and that they needed the space for training. McGregor is skeptical that is the real reason, noting the property is 14 acres and has plenty of empty space.
In the eviction letter sent to the ratepayers, Cariboo Regional District CAO John MacLean said the CRD board committed to looking into the community’s needs for the long term. While MacLean acknowledged that the use of the hall had been permitted in the past, he reiterated the board has chosen to dedicate the hall solely to firefighting purposes.
“The board has further directed that we enter discussions with the whole community on community needs and the options available to meet those needs,” MacLean said. “We know this is challenging. It is our belief that engaging with the Deka Lake residents regarding community use space is important.”
MacLean further noted escalating the dispute would not help facilitate “respectful conversations.” He said the CRD intended to use the municipal election as a “cooling off period” before engaging with the community again after the election.
McGregor is concerned about how this eviction will impact their recycling program. That has been the ratepayers’ primary source of funding for projects and community events for years.
“We make about $12,000 a year off of our recycling program and that all goes back into the community,” McGregor said. “Every single boat launch (in the area) we rebuilt. We rebuilt 20 boat launches out there.”
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The people who have moved to Deka Lake over the years, McGregor said, have come partially because of all the community events the ratepayers and other groups organized. He claimed a survey they conducted of 273 people found 97 per cent supports their efforts to come to a compromise with the CRD.
McGregor said the ratepayers remain optimistic. MacLean is set to take a new position at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and McGregor is hopeful they’ll be able to establish a better relationship with his successor.
“There are many solutions to this problem to satisfy everybody other than building another hall,” McGregor said. “The taxpayers of 1,000 lots aren’t going to build a $2-million hall when there’s one sitting vacant there.”