COMMENT: City of Trail offers strongly-worded response to criticism
The City is responding to Mr. Norm Gabana’s Letter to the Editor, Bridge Reports and Statements Differ, that was published in the Trail Times on Oct. 23. Mr. Gabana is the individual who initiated a petition against the City’s Loan Authorization Bylaw 2775 that was advanced to provide the City with authority to borrow up to $4.916 million to construct a pipeline/pedestrian bridge. The City is aware that he misrepresented various aspects of the project to Trail’s electors as part of securing signatures against the proposed bylaw and effectively forcing a public referendum. The referendum, which subsequently took place in August of this year, received overwhelming public support with a 79-per-cent majority ‘yes’ vote. And, as a result of holding the referendum, direct costs of over $5,000 were incurred.
As part of moving the project forward, the City now has an agreement in place with the Regional District, which will provide cost sharing on the regional interceptor sewer line. In addition to the sewer line, this key piece of public infrastructure will carry a City water line, a fibre-optic conduit, provide a walking deck and cycling platform and will serve as an emergency linkage to the Regional Hospital from the West side of the City. Mr. Gabana continues to misrepresent the matter as part of an apparent ploy to discredit the City and cast doubt with respect to the direction that is being taken. The most recent inflammatory comments being made are not based on facts and are addressed as follows:
1. He states that he requested information the City was relying on in support of the decision to close the Old Bridge. He first approached the City as early as April 2014 and City staff met with him on several occasions. Following these meetings Mr. Gabana, who the City does not believe to be a professional engineer, proposed his recommendations to fix the Old Bridge. He was provided the letter the City received from Buckland & Taylor Bridge Engineering Ltd. (B&T) dated October 19th, 2010 regarding their recommendation to close the Old Bridge. This letter was in fact received at a Regular Council meeting, held on October 25th, 2010 (resolution 451-10) as part of Council’s public decision to close the Old Bridge. An updated opinion dated on October 24, 2014 has now been received and the conclusions have not changed with the indication that the most economical way of proceeding would be full replacement of a vehicular bridge is required.
2. The condition of the bridge was also shown as part of a detailed presentation that was compiled by the City’s consulting engineers in advance of the 2014 referendum that demonstrated the mass deterioration of the bridge. The City has been repeatedly advised that given the level of deterioration doing any further assessment would be a waste of public moneys and that an investment of up to $10 million would be required and most likely would only provide another 10 years of use, which results in a depreciated annual cost of $1 million per year.
3. With respect to the piers, while concrete under the water that forms part of the pilings for each pier is in relatively good shape, the pier shafts above the water, that have been subject to atmospheric conditions over 100 years, are totally dilapidated. The metal casing can easily be penetrated and there is no solid core contained within the metal piers to support the superstructure. Because this gives obvious rise for concern, immediate action is needed to remove the sewer line from the structure.
4. The 2009 report referenced in the Letter to the Editor, where the engineer indicates the structure is not up to current standards but is adequate for light traffic and pedestrian use, was issued prior to the detailed physical inspection of the bridge in 2010. After the inspection that took place in September 2010, B&T issued a recommendation on October 19, 2010 to close the bridge. The letter notes that increasing deterioration on an annual basis had been observed and the pier shafts were inspected as part of gaining “special access” and severe concerns were identified.
5. He also indicates that the City did not, prior to 2010, perform upgrade work to the Old Bridge to extend its life. This suggestion is not true; the attached table demonstrates that the City had spent nearly $1.6 million dollars to keep the bridge functional since 1989. B&T acknowledge this with references to the extended life that was gained as a result of these repairs.
6. He is also critical of various community infrastructure improvement projects and questions how they will stimulate economic growth. From a transportation perspective, an airport is considered to be a key building block for any successful community. The City is therefore taking appropriate action as the owner of the Trail Regional Airport and will look to mitigate any impact to the taxpayer. Like the pipeline/pedestrian bridge project, the Trail Riverfront Centre (Library & Museum) will now be put to the electorate for decision. The simple fact is that Trail needs to remain competitive and take necessary steps to modernize public infrastructure as part of attracting new residents and other investors to the community. The City cannot be passive with other communities taking strides to differentiate their communities from others throughout the West Kootenay Region. The City simply can’t rely on major industry to pave the way and a positive and forward thinking direction must be set and it is hoped that the public will support this.
7. With respect to the addition of debt, the City currently spends just over 3% of its general operating budget on debt payments. The City is looking at other ways to offset borrowing costs including the utilization of Federal Gas Tax and also will seek grant opportunities. Balancing tax implications with ongoing projects is obviously a key consideration given the City also wants to ensure it remains competitive as far as property tax rates are concerned.
It is very clear that Mr. Gabana continues to portray the City and its decisions based on his personal bias against the pipeline/pedestrian project and his disagreement with the other goals and objectives the City is trying to achieve. This letter is yet another attempt to add a negative spin to positive progress being made as part of misrepresenting the past work that has been undertaken as it pertains to the Old Bridge, the current replacement project and other initiatives being advanced by the City. It is truly concerning when there seems to be such a persistent effort by certain individuals in our community to try to stifle progress and it is hoped that this response sets the record straight.
City Council trusts the majority of City residents remains supportive and will take an active role in shaping the future of our community.