A simmering debate over the future of a fire hall development project is coming to a head in Stanstead Township with a referendum deadline set for later this week.
Residents have been asked to participate in a mail-in vote that kicked off on Oct. 8. The last day to submit a vote is Oct. 25, but with no mail distributed over the weekend, Mayor Francine Caron Markwell urged citizens to send it by latest Monday.
“If I was in their shoes, that’s what I would do to make sure it gets there,” she said in a phone interview with The Record on Friday afternoon, adding that people can also use rapid mail services to ensure their vote is in by the end of the week.
The controversial project dates back nearly three years, Markwell explained, after Stanstead’s current fire hall was deemed an outdated workplace by the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).
Town council submitted several project proposals, but residents pushed back over what they considered unnecessary additions and high costs. With their latest proposal once again facing opposition, Markwell and her council decided a referendum vote was the best option.
Residents have expressed displeasure over a multifunctional room attached to the fire hall construction project. The council is asking for $1.9 million in funds to build the new station, but people believe it could be more cost-efficient without the added space.
“The first use is for the firemen, but we said because we have a hall like that why not call it multifunctional, so it could be used for different things when the firemen don’t need it and somebody else can use it,” said Markwell.
The space will primarily be used for firefighter training sessions, she clarified. However, a group of residents has banded together throughout this referendum period, stating that the town could build a suitable fire hall without a multifunctional room.