Linda Worley questions the fairness of paying almost $140,000 annually to Trail when only a handful of Area B residents actually use the city’s recreational facilities.
The regional director has a big decision to make on behalf of her 1,410 constituents before the current five-year agreement, which has property owners paying about $73 annually, ends in December.
Combined with public insight from a previous community meeting, the regional director says feedback shows the majority of residents want to go with the reimbursement plan.
Her observation follows an online survey on the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary website that was made public in July and closed Aug. 7.
Three questions were asked – should Area B enter into a new agreement; based on user statistics, should the dollar amount remain status quo or decreased; or should the Trail Resident Program (TRP) be scrapped entirely in favour of a reimbursement model or user-pay system.
She was disappointed with only fifteen respondents, but said the replies echo conversations and telephone calls Worley has already had with her constituents.
“The survey results were evenly split between reimbursement, user pay and a rec deal with Trail,” she added. “But for far less than the previous amount being paid.”
Based on only 12 per cent of Area B residents accessing the TRP, Worley says the public was very clear that paying $702,000 toward the program since 2011 is considered “outrageous.”
“Most voiced that they would rather user pay or go to reimbursement, rather than have the balance of taxpayers in Lower Columbia/Old Glory (Area B) have to pay for them using the facilities,” she explained, noting Trail provided the TRP numbers. “Having said that, I still feel it’s important to have that conversation with Trail to see if there is an appetite for a much lesser contribution.”
Worley pointed out that the electoral area has many of its own recreational halls and parks to maintain as well as development of a trails system throughout the unincorporated communities of Genelle, Rivervale, Oasis, Casino, Blackjack, South Belt, Sheep Creek and Paterson.
“What we tax for in Area B’s parks and trails doesn’t just cover the recreation program with Trail,” she said. “That covers all the parks, trails and halls in Area B. So I have to be very conscious of the taxpayer dollars when only 12 per cent are using Trail recreational facilities.”
Area B Parks and Trails absorbs about 10 per cent of annual property taxes, and based on the average home assessed at $175,000, property owners pay $73 annually for the City of Trail rec agreement.
“I do think it’s important that I meet with (the city) to see what we can do,” Worley added. “I feel that a much lesser amount would be a more fiscally responsible use of the taxpayer monies.”
TRP expenses have been in the spotlight for a number of years, and became a hot topic in 2014 following Beaver Valley (BV) recreation’s decision to not renew an agreement with Trail.
Montrose, Fruitvale and Area A collectively paid about $1 million towards the TRP over five years. Aside from the program’s cost, talks between the parties stalled because of the unknown impact of Trail’s proposed boundary expansion on the area’s tax base.
After recent negotiations, BV recreation and Trail announced that a one-year agreement was reached July 31, with the three municipalities contributing $125,000 for the term.
“We did have a very successful reimbursement program in place but it was still difficult for some folks to put the money out front,” Ali Grieve, Area A director told the Trail Times that day. “This will make things much simpler for our residents and for all staff.”
Montrose Mayor Joe Danchuk agreed. “In Montrose it’ll be great for us. This will take away barriers,” he said, adding recreation should be accessible to everyone.
“It will make Trail facilities accessible for our seniors and our young families. And hopefully we can build on this for more collaboration.”
The committees involved in recreation discussions included Trail representatives Mayor Mike Martin, Councillors Kevin Jolly and Sandy Santori, along with BV Rec, composed of Mayor Patricia Cecchini (Fruitvale), Mayor Joe Danchuk (Montrose) and Director Grieve.