The ongoing hot button issue of regional recreation facilities and who pays what for them continues this week with the ball back in Rossland’s court.
Three seasons into the issue there have been a series of back and forth volleys between Trail, Rossland and Beaver Valley which involved proposals back and forth but more so comments from all camps that they wanted to negotiate and that it was the other guy who didn’t want to talk. Throughout the process, emotions have been high and have occasionally flared up. Unhappy with what they felt was Trail not bargaining in good faith, the Beaver Valley Recreation committee went public with their feelings on the subject this spring.
After setting up face to face meetings between Trail and Beaver Valley the stalemate was broken last week with an agreement being struck between the two municipalities. City of Trail CAO David Perehudoff explained, “Basically they have agreed to compensate the City of Trail at $200,000 for 2009 and four years beyond that at $200,000 adjusted upwards by the British Columbia Consumer Price Index. In addition to that they are effectively willing to accept requests for capital funding by Trail as well. They are committed to setting up a capital reserve for Beaver Valley projects and will allow the City of Trail to send specific requests where needed. Starting in 2010 for a period of three years they will contribute for the purpose of resurfacing the Haley Park track. Beyond that we’ll look at specific capital needs and send request to them when we feel it is necessary.”
The deal reached with Beaver Valley is only a slight tweak on the original proposal from Beaver Valley of $200,000 a year. The main difference lies in the formula used for funding increases in years two through five. Rather than a hard $15,000 dollar increase in funding each year Beaver Valley wanted the annual increases tied to a cost of living allowance (COLA).
“We had a discussion on what was COLA,” explained Montrose Mayor Griff Welsh. “I said, “Well whatever my pension goes up and Dieter whatever your pension goes up that’s what we’ll call COLA."
Beaver Valley’s approach to the funding deal was to first identify which of the former regional recreation facilities located in Trail they wanted to pay for. Having their own arena they decided that they would pay for Trail’s recreation programs, the Trail Aquatic Centre and Haley Park. Looking at what they previously paid for those facilities they determined they had previously paid approximately $174,000 under the regional recreation deal and budgeted in September ’08 to pay as much as $200,000 moving forward.
With the deal now in place, Beaver Valley will not be subject to the non-Trail resident fees to be implemented in September. This deal now also has set a precedent that Trail plans to use going forward in any negotiations with Rossland, Warfield or Area B.
“Now that a benchmark is established with Beaver Valley we are looking for consistency with the other local governments if they are still interested in negotiations and carrying on,” said Trail CEO David Perehudoff. “Now we have an obligation to Beaver Valley to be fair and to our constituents to be fair. Our numbers right now other than some fine tuning are pretty well fixed based on the first agreement. If in fact we do sit down to talk with Rossland that would be where we start, and we’ll see how they respond to that.”
The benchmark that has been set and the formula Trail will now use in negotiations with the other local governments will be based on the compromise reached with Beaver Valley.
“Through negotiations with Beaver Valley we came up with a number lower than what we proposed and higher than what they proposed so we used basically that number and applied it as a factor to what we requested for from the other communities so we are at 74% of what we originally asked for. That’s what we’ve given Rossland as our expectation,” added Perehudoff.
For Rossland this would mean a new offer from Trail of $147,000 per year plus annual cost of living allowances.
This past Monday Rossland held a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss recreation and negotiations with Trail. This reporter attended the meeting for the first five minutes before a motion was made to take the meeting in-camera.
Speaking with Mayor Granstrom after the meeting the Mayor didn’t have many details he could divulge on the matter other than it has been set up that Rossland and Trail council’s will meet face to face on July 9th to discuss the issue.
Mayor Granstrom’s response to whether or not they would be interested in the 74% of original offer proposal Granstrom replied “We’ll see. We’ll see. We’ve got to watch our dollars up here. We’re not as rich as Beaver Valley and Area A,”
Beaver Valley and Area A receive tax revenues from the Waneta Dam located within their jurisdiction which adds significantly to the municipality’s tax base. Rossland does not have the luxury of a sizable industrial tax base in town with a disproportionate amount of the cities revenue coming from residential property taxes compared to Trail and Beaver Valley.
“They’ve got all of the taxes from the Waneta Dam right? We can’t afford that,” said Granstrom. “It’s pretty easy for them to offer what they offered when it’s not coming off of the taxpayer's back. The money they are spending is probably from the taxpayers only about 40 cents on the dollar. We’re paying 98 cents on the dollar up here from taxpayers.”
While neither the Mayor nor council have said they have any specific figures in mind at this point, they have just moved as far as planning to get together council to council to discuss the matter at this point.
“All we’ve committed to at this point is having a discussion with them on July 9th, which is positive. It’s rare that two councils sit down together face to face,” added Granstrom.
With the looming start-up of non-Trail resident fees on the horizon and a benchmark deal now struck with Beaver Valley, the ball is now in Rossland’s court as to how they proceed next. Trail now also faces the possibility that they will not recover the full cost of recreation if deals are not reached with Rossland, Warfield and Area B and may have to further cut services.
“At the end of the day we wanted to recover a total cost of some $700,000. That means that even with Rossland on board we’re still going to be short so the City of Trail is going to have to deal with that. So far we have reduced the operating hours of the aquatic centre to balance that and next year we’ll re-examine it and see what can be done,” said Perehudoff.
Beaver Valley on the other hand, with a deal in place is looking forward to moving beyond the issues and the difficulties they went through during the negotiating period.
“I don’t want to go through that again. The bullshit that came out of Trail... I think I said it before but if you were negotiating with someone like labour or the union and pulled those tactics you’d be thrown right out of town, but we’re not going back there. We’re getting along fine now. We’re happy and I think they are happy too so it’s all good now and we’re carrying on,” concluded Welsh.