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LETTER: Rossland’s Columbia/Washington infrastructure upgrade

Dear editor,

A while ago in Rossland, there was an open forum between City staff, councillors and the public.  One of the clear messages was a promise for more   open government.  Recently, there has been a process conducted by the City of   Rossland which has been anything but open – the proposal for an  infrastructure upgrade of Columbia Avenue and Washington Street in  conjunction with the Ministry of Highways repaving of Columbia Avenue this  year. 

The City proposes a budget of $6 million for this project, which  represents a very large local tax burden for homeowners estimated by the City  to be 10%, with another report of closer to 17% annually, for the next 15-20  years.

Council approved an Alternative Approval Process for this project.  Notices  of Intent were posted before Christmas in The Trail Times and on the City  website.  If you did not see the notices (as I didn’t, I was out of town)  or look on the City Website you may not have been aware of the City’s  plans.  And, what about the people in Rossland who do not receive the Trail Times or regularly surf the City Website looking for surprises? 

They, like  me, did not realize the implications of the process these announcements  triggered, namely – if you objected to this process, you had to obtain a  form from City Hall, and register it.  No form implied consent! In late  January, at the last moment, a City Newsletter was mailed to residents of   Rossland describing the process with estimated costs, a letter not approved  by Council.  In my opinion, this letter should have been mailed, with full  Council input IN NOVEMBER instead of by a “below-the-radar” approach of  bare minimum required advertising.  A scant 19 people in Rossland formally  objected, a number that was less than the 10% requirement and so the plan is  proceeding.  The whole process, while minimally following ‘due process’  appears subversive, and does not reflect open government.  City staff should  be ashamed of themselves.  Rossland Councillors Stradling, Charlton and Smith
expressed concerns for the approach which the City chose.

Because of the magnitude of the potential tax burden, I want Rossland Council  to approve a special motion allowing a referendum to be held seeking taxpayer  approval for these projects and that the referendum take the form of two parts:  (1) Approval for Columbia Avenue infrastructure upgrade, and (2)  separate Approval for the Washington Street infrastructure upgrade which,  according to the City Website also includes part of Spokane Street.  Any  changes to the “streetscape” should be vetoed at this time.

Separate realistic costs and tabulated benefits should be provided for both  possible projects together with a table describing the annual tax increments  and total 20 year cost to current residents.  This way the taxpayers can  decide whether one, both, or neither projects should be undertaken.  While  Council is elected to make decisions, certain ones of these are sufficiently  large to warrant direct public input.

Betty Jenkins