Looks like follow-the-leader is the name of the game in Greater Trail now that Warfield will not be renewing its five-year recreation and library services agreement with the City of Trail.
The decision to no longer cost share with the city under the Trail Resident Program (TRP) was made during an in-camera council meeting last week, which means Trail taxpayers are now on the hook to cover the loss of Warfield’s $74,500 contribution towards recreation and $32,500 annual payment toward library services.
“This is very disappointing news,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs in a Monday news release. “Negotiations and discussions with Warfield were seemingly proceeding very well up until the city was advised of this decision,” he explained. “Therefore we were quite shocked to hear the village decided not to renew the agreement.”
The news of Warfield council’s decision blindsided Virginia Clover, a long time village resident who keeps fit at the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre, avidly plays pickleball in Trail facilities, and regularly visits the Trail and District Public Library.
“I am heart sick,” Clover told the Trail Times. “Once again I see this as another grievous blow to community participation after so many years of cooperation between Trail and Warfield.”
The retired teacher wrote a letter to Warfield council stating her belief that the village should not “go the way of the other dissident councils in the area,” by withdrawing from cost sharing in recreation and cultural services.
“I am very disappointed that I did not receive a response from council,” said Clover. “The fact that this decision was made in camera appears sneaky and opaque and leaves people in our community feeling betrayed.”
The village “went over a couple of offers,” said Warfield Mayor Bert Crockett.
“We noticed that all the other areas are looking at costing so we have got to make sure we get the right costs for our citizens,” he said.
Since 2009, the village has been paying between $71,000 and $75,000 per year to the city for Warfield users to access Trail recreational facilities, and to date, never requested or received user information on a regular basis.
“Now we are going to start looking into it,” explained Crockett. “Everybody else wasn’t getting their information but at the end of the day we were thinking about extending the agreement for a year or taking it to referendum,” he said. “But that would have an added cost and it could be defeated or meant a six per cent increase in taxation.”
According to Vince Morelli, the village’s chief administrative officer, Trail did not present Warfield with a specific dollar amount for 2014.
However, Crockett added that council made the decision in a closed meeting Thursday after discussing the options and chose to launch a reimbursement program for residents who access Trail services.
“We looked at how other municipalities are doing it and came to the same conclusion,” he said. “We are going to find the actual cost other than these numbers that are just floating.”
Warfield’s reimbursement program is effective immediately and users are asked to bring a receipt to the village hall, with a pay-out expected to take up to two weeks.
On the library side of things, that Trail facility is already struggling with its 2014 budget so the additional loss of over $30,000 will most likely mean a cut to services.
“We don’t have all the details yet,” he added. “We are looking at our options.”
The village’s decision comes on the heels of the Beaver Valley Recreation committee choosing to end its cost sharing agreement with Trail in December leaving Trail scrambling to cover an immediate $209,000 loss to recreational services.
“The city is now forced to look at the existing TRP rates more critically and will need to consider making user fee and recreation program adjustments,” said Bogs.
“The inability of our neighbours to recognize and contribute toward the larger recreations facilities in Trail that provide a regional benefit is difficult to comprehend,” he continued. “Without these facilities it would clearly make Greater Trail less desirable and could negatively impact such things as future economic investment, employment as well as property values.”