Communication Breakdown - Recreation Saga Going Nowhere Fast

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
May 28th, 2009

The ongoing regional recreation saga took several new twists this week. Tweak may be a better word to use however as the new twists are essentially more of the same story we’ve been hearing which breaks down to a lack of fruitful discussions between the communities involved.

If Robert Plant got to have a say on the whole situation he might describe the situation as:

Communication breakdown,
Its always the same,
I’m having a nervous breakdown,
Drive me insane!

Led Zepplin references aside, it would appear that Rossland is not alone in having issues with the City of Trail regarding recreation. Frustrated or confused by the negotiating process on recreation with Trail, the new Beaver Valley Recreation service (a partnership between the villages of Fruitvale, Montrose and Electoral Area “A”) went public last week, taking its message to the media.

“From our experience we had come to an agreement with the city of Trail based on a request they made of us and after we thought we had a joint agreement they changed the terms, asking for more money,” explained Ali Grieve, Electoral Area “A” Director. “We don’t think we’ve been treated fairly.”

As explained by Grieve, Beaver Valley originally offered, on February 27th, $174,420 based on 2008 actual contributions for the use of the aquatic centre, field-house, Haley Park and recreation programming in addition to $15,000 annually over three years for the resurfacing of Haley Park’s track. “Trail then countered, asking for $200,000 and a 5 year agreement with no basis for the calculation except that more money was needed” wrote Grieve. Beaver Valley considered the request and upped their offer to $174,420 with an increase of $10,000 in transitional funding, still including the $15,000 yearly contribution to the Haley Park track for a total annual contribution of $199,420. This offer was rejected by Trail who stated that user fees would be initiated for all jurisdictions.

Wanting to move the process forward and avoid user fees for non-Trail residents, “Beaver Valley decided the difference between the two positions was minimal and offered exactly what Trail asked for in its March 31st request ($200,000 with a five year deal and annual cost of living increases). Five days later the majority of Trail council voted against its own request of the Beaver Valley,” according to Grieve and “now demands $200,000 in the first year with an additional $15,000 more in each of the four years to a total of $260,000 operational costs by year 5, along with a new request for $140,000 of additional funding for capital costs over the term of the agreement. Trail has now moved the bar to $310,000 annually by the end of the agreement.

Responding to the accusations by Beaver Valley that Trail has not bargained in good faith and to the details listed above which were distributed in a press release by Beaver Valley, City of Trail CAO David Perehudoff replied, “Well, their interpretation of the context of the discussion or negotiations  is not factual.”

“They took our proposal and effectively refused it,” said Perehudoff. “Then it came back to the city for further consideration and council said, ‘okay, we’re willing to deal with their proposal on year one’, so we signed off on that and then looked closely at the five year agreement hoping to put more definitions to the agreement beyond year one and that’s when they felt we did something different when in fact our previous proposal was no longer on the table. From our perspective it was a very strange reaction from them. I think it was understood that we’re going to try and negotiate an agreement and for some reason they chose to take it to the public which, to us, put a negative spin on the whole process.”

With a communication breakdown clearly in place no deal has yet to be reached between Beaver Valley and Trail, with both sides claiming no wrong doing and both claiming to have worked in good faith towards an agreement, while accusing the other of bad faith.

The familiar story of miscommunication over the recreation funding made its way up the hill to Rossland this past Monday. During a meeting between Mayor Granstrom and Mayor Boggs last week, as described in last week’s Telegraph story on the issue, Trail presented its latest offer to Rossland to be discussed by council. In between Trail sending Rossland the latest proposal and Rossland sitting down at council to discuss the matter, Trail mailed out a newsletter to its citizens stating that the new non-Trail-resident fees would be commencing in September as no agreements could be reached with the greater Trail communities.

Rossland took this announcement to be a sign that Trail had cut off negotiations.

“It appears to people around the table that Trail is bargaining in less than good faith. I don’t get it. If anybody gets this please explain it to me? I got this proposal on the 20th, and this (newsletter to Trail residents informing them of the start date for non-Trail-resident fees) was mailed out to the people by the 23rd at least. What’s going on here?” questioned Mayor Granstrom during Monday night’s regular council meeting.

Questioning why council should bother discussing the five year plan sent to them by Trail when Trail already announced to its citizens that the non-resident fees would commence, Mayor Granstrom suggested sending a letter to Trail stating that Rossland is willing to negotiate but is disappointed that they cannot negotiate at this time.

Councillor Spearn added, “We are ready to discuss it with Trail. The people I talk to don’t want to wait for a year they want us to talk and solve it now. We need to engage in discussion at a committee of the whole meeting right now. We need to send a friendly letter to the city of Trail saying we are confused with the negotiating process and we want to engage in discussions immediately.”

When asked why Trail sent out the announcement to its citizens before Rossland had a chance to discuss the new potential agreement Perehudoff noted that they are still wanting to negotiate but needed to have a contingency plan in hand in case an agreement could not be reached in time.

“I think we’re forced to move forward (with the user pay system) on the assumption that there will be agreements but make sure we’re set up to start recovering revenues that will be lost through the overall demise of the recreation function,” said Perehudooff.

All members of Rossland council appeared to be of a consensus that negotiations need to continue as the issue is important to the people of Rossland.

“It’s important we don’t look like the bad guys because we’re not,” said Granstrom, clearly passionate about the issue. “We’ve never said we’re not going to cooperate and not going to negotiate. We’ve never said that. What we’ve said is we want to negotiate something that is reasonable. We finally get something we can discuss and now we see this [the newsletter to Trail residents].”

That position was not understood or agreed with by Trail’s CAO, who was perplexed as to why Rossland would continue to say that they are wanting to discuss the issue and infer that it is Trail who is not negotiating.

“We sent letters to them last October asking if they were interested in sitting down and negotiating with the city. I’ve got e-mails from the previous CAO (Ron Campbell) suggesting that was the case and have an e-mail from him in February indicating that on Feb 23rd Rossland council dealt with correspondence from Trail ( on the recreation issue) and chose to take no action,” countered Perehudoff.

Ultimately Rossland council decided that it would be best to lead by example and made a motion that council send a letter to the city of Trail explaining that Rossland is still eager to negotiate considering cost sharing of recreation and parks in the city of Trail but are confused by the process taken by the City of Trail to negotiate an acceptable agreement and would like clarification.

As it stands, or stands still, Rossland, Beaver Valley and Trail have said they want to negotiate fairly and solve the issue, but as of yet none of them have reached an agreement and the process appears to be back at square one, 18 months after the dissolution of regional recreation was announced.

Moving forward Beaver Valley is currently working on setting a date ASAP with Trail to sit down and discuss the matter. Rossland and Trail seem to be further apart on the issue with no immediate discussions planned between the two cities.

With the impending non-Trail-resident rates planned to go into effect in early September, only three months remain to reach an agreement before the citizens of Rossland and Beaver Valley face significantly higher fees.

“Maybe through this whole thing the public has become more interested and it will elevate things to a point where something does happen which is what we had hoped for all along. Hopefully people will step up and take notice and put some pressure on the various municipalities to get something done,” concluded Perehudoff.

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