Meetings reveal tax implications of pipe bridge

Trail taxpayers will foot about 63 per cent of the sewer service cost, or $4.5 million.

After years of campaigning to keep the Old Trail Bridge open to at least pedestrians, Trail resident John Carter graciously accepted defeat last week.

Carter was among 29 people who gathered in Trail council chambers Thursday for a public consultation about construction of the $14.5 million pipe/pedestrian bridge.

The open session was information-only but provided a sounding board for residents to clarify details about the upcoming multi-million dollar project.

Following the city’s presentation which provided background and rationale, Carter approached the podium.

“I accept defeat,” he said. Then, with applause from the gallery, Carter shook hands with the Trail Mayor Mike Martin.

The 104-year old bridge has been decommissioned for about five years but the regional sewer interceptor line still hangs from the structure.

The decision to relocate the utility fell to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) East End Sewer Committee. Partners in Trail, Rossland and Warfield reached consensus last fall that included a $4.2 million agreement for an aerial pipeline to carry waste across the Columbia River to the sewage treatment plant in Waneta.

Fast forward to one month ago, when bids for the new sewer line came in well above budget. A whirlwind of talks ensued because of the time crunch associated with the lowest tendering bid from Calgary-based Graham Infrastructure LP. Then two weeks ago, the three parties agreed to increase the regional loan by $3 million to get the job done.

Before the $7.2 million loan authorization is passed by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, all three municipalities were mandated to host public meetings and reveal tax impacts.

Trail taxpayers will foot about 63 per cent of the sewer service cost, or $4.5 million.

That means, based on the average house assessed at $183,000, Trail ratepayers will see a minimum $31.50 increase in property taxes to pay off its portion of the regional loan.

Warfield held its public meeting Thursday evening in the village community hall. Twenty residents showed up to hear why council opted for the aerial sewer line as well as tax implications for the village’s $902,000 contribution to the project.

Each Warfield household will have a $47 flat fee line item on the 2016 utility bill, dedicated to the pipe bridge, confirmed Mayor Ted Pahl during the half hour gathering.

“We chose this option versus property tax,” he explained. “As taxes are based on assessed values, meaning, depending on the value of your home, your actual cost could (have) fluctuated.”

Rossland council hosted a drop-in session in chambers Friday from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore says the city is striving for self supporting water and sewer utilities, meaning general revenue won’t be used to pay for the services.

To achieve the goal, each household will pay almost double the current $60 parcel tax.

“It’s not like regular taxes that are determined by each property’s assessed value,” explained Moore. “Currently each parcel pays $60 to fund existing sewer projects. With the addition of the pipe bridge, each parcel is likely to pay $117,” she added. “I say likely because it’s possible we may chose to fund it another way one we get into our financial plan, but I doubt it.”

Rossland pays almost 25 per cent into the regional service, with the city’s apportionment to the new line being almost $1.8 million.

“We have very limited reserves in our sewer fund,” says Moore. “And we have allocated our gas tax money for other projects for our huge Washington street upgrade set to get underway in 2016.”

The $7.3 million walking platform, which will disguise the sewer line, will be paid for strictly by Trail.

City voters agreed to a $4.9 million loan in a 2014 August referendum for the pedestrian bridge, and the city will internally fund the additional $2.4 million with Federal Gas Tax reserves and other capital revenues.

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