A huge makeover to downtown Trail got underway in 2013.

Top stories of 2013: Trail buys airport, looks to grow city limits

The Trail Times is reviewing some of the top stories of 2013 as it closes the book on a busy year.

Big moves in the political arena and big changes outside the sports arena prevailed in Silver City news this year.

After the fallout from an airport service review left Trail’s vision of expanding the regional service at odds with the seven-person East End Services (EES) committee, the city threw future flight plans into a tailspin by formally requesting to purchase the airport Jan. 15.

Fast forward 11 months to Dec. 19 when Trail released the news that the city reached an agreement to purchase the Trail Regional Airport for S1.28 million from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) with a transition plan expected to be secured within the next six months.

To maintain the 4,000-foot airstrip running on a break-even basis, the city is considering increasing the $7 fee affixed to the purchase of a ticket to $12, which will avoid a hike in property taxes related to the acquisition and daily operations of the service.

Under the RDKB ownership the airport was volunteer-run, however, the city is currently recruiting an airport manager during this initial phase of transition.

In April, the future of regional economic development took a hit when 12 of 13 RDKB directors agreed to end an agreement to fund the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC), located on Pine Avenue in downtown Trail, after six of the seven EES partners did not wish to continue with the service.

The reason given, after an LCIC service review, was the cost of the service and the ability to sustain it. Meaning the three-year contract to provide $224,000 per year would no longer buoy the economic development program after December 2013.

The following month, Trail rebounded with the announcement that the city would pursue a boundary expansion into Teck-owned land in Area A, with a proposal to absorb 66 parcels of land and the property taxes within the area that includes the Waneta Dam the Teck Reload Facility.

The proposed deal secures Teck Trail Operations a long term tax certainty of a reduction in municipal taxes over time, and for Trail, a one-time community investment of $1 million to focus on economic development and a 20-year commitment of $225,000 per year, indexed for inflation, to focus on the economy and diversification.

The city received a mitigation proposal from the RDKB earlier this month pertaining to the loss of revenue for various regional services and a compensation package should the boundary expansion proceed, confirmed David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer.

“The city will now work to develop a response to this and will complete a boundary extension report that will be submitted to the province,” he said. “The city would hope to have a response back from the province in the first quarter of 2014 and then assess next steps in the process.”

As late spring rolled in to summer, the first stage of Trail’s downtown revitalization plan, called the Victoria Street Corridor project, began at the bottom of Glover Road.

From July to October, the major artery through town was a zone of heavy construction while the city’s old bones (sewer and drainage systems) were dug up and replaced with modern infrastructure.

During this time, many drivers became hot under the collar as long waits in traffic congestion led to numerous phone calls and letters of complaint to the city.

The 2013 construction affected more than just peak hours of traffic demand and the high level of traffic disruption was not anticipated, explained John Howes, engineering technician for Trail.

All future works within the Victoria Street corridor require a much higher level of traffic management planning, including a more accommodating construction schedule, in order to minimize the disruption of the normal traffic flow, Howes concluded in a Dec report to council.

That observation will be taken into account during Phase 2 of the downtown plan set to resume in the new year.

Upcoming improvements include the “pretty” of the plan, such as planting trees and improving upon current greenery; site amenities such as benches and bike racks; and further sidewalk and parking upgrades.

November saw the re-emergence of the proposed pedestrian pipe bridge plan when council approved the location of the 300-metre walking bridge.

The $6.5 million foot-traffic only crossing will start at the west end of Rotary Park, near the Groutage Avenue parking lot, and cross over the Columbia River to end at the intersection of McQuarrie Street and Columbia Avenue in East Trail.

Earlier in December, council advanced a design which incorporates a single support tower on each end of the river and the city is now approaching the RDKB and the regional sewer service to determine the level of funding it will provide as part of the regional sewer interceptor line being connected to the bridge.

“If everything comes together as planned, the city should be in a position to advance a loan authorization bylaw early in 2014 for the city share of the project,” said Perehudoff.

The final month of the year saw the end of regional cost-sharing for recreation users in Beaver Valley communities under the Trail Resident Program (TRP).

Fruitvale, Area A and Montrose citizens who use Trail’s facilities including the pool, programs and gym at the aquatic centre, Willi Krause Field house and Haley Park will be paying more for those services beginning Jan. 1.

As the new year rings in, another project Trail residents can expect to hear about is the concept plan, budget and potential property tax impacts related to the proposed construction of a new Library/Museum on the former Eagles property at the south end of downtown.

The city is working towards the plan’s completion in January, explained Perehudoff, and a public consultation will follow to advise taxpayers about the estimated property tax impacts.

“The city will also work with other bodies to identify potential grant opportunities in hopes of securing moneys to lessen the overall cost of the project,” he added.

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