Amalgamation – Consultant hired to study Trail-Warfield union

Property tax impacts and potential changes to services will be the first areas studied by a consultant who will look at a pending marriage between Trail and Warfield.

Urban Systems has been hired on to undertake a nearly $34,000 Trail-Warfield amalgamation study, which will start up right away, the partners announced Wednesday.

“Trail council is happy to see this matter advanced and we look forward to working through the process,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs in a news release.

“Trail council has long been a proponent of looking at various local government restructuring options and this study should clearly demonstrate if any sort of changes are feasible and in the interest of the impacted communities.”

Trail and Warfield would like the study to be completed prior to municipal elections in November, but a potential referendum would not occur until the spring of 2012.

“This is a significant decision for both communities and the analysis and public consultation cannot be rushed,” said Warfield Mayor Jim Nelson.

“We want citizens in both communities to fully understand the issues, should the question to amalgamate be put to the electorate for approval.”

In addition to two elected officials and one senior staff member from each community, six community members have been selected to sit on the steering committee, which will oversee the work of the consultant. Trail’s Richard Deane, Jamie Forbes and Don Catalano will join Warfield’s Gordon Titsworth, Thorpe Watson and Nuala Bain.

After financial implications are studied and it’s determined whether an amalgamation is feasible, input from the public and the 12-member steering committee will help decide whether to proceed prior to the end of August.

Phase 2 of the study, costing about $16,000 to complete, will look a refining financial implications, focusing on various governance issues and will include discussing or negotiating amalgamation conditions with the province.

“I would suggest that the property tax impacts will play a large part in assessing the feasibility of moving forward,” explained city administrator David Perehudoff. “If there is a big property tax shift for either community then there might be a reluctance to proceed.”

Other areas of consideration will include issues raised at public meetings.

“If there are major concerns advanced that are felt to be show stoppers than the steering committee may recommend that the study not be advanced to Phase 2,” said Perehudoff.

The study will be paid for on a per-capita basis – which means Trail will pick up about 80 per cent of the bill. It’s hoped that the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary will provide some financial support – $10,000 – to help offset the cost for Warfield and Trail.

The consultant will now collect financial data from each community, before meeting with the steering committee to discuss its initial approach.

Urban Systems has been involved with numerous governance and boundary restructure studies in its 35 years of working with local governments in the province. The communities will be working with the company’s office out of Kelowna.

After the consultant develops potential scenarios, results will be presented to the public, hopefully before the end of June.