Cities disputing who will resolve sewer dispute

The regional sewer dispute has stalled again as Trail and Warfield cannot agree on a dispute mediator.

Talk about a stalemate.

The Silver City is currently ensnarled with the Golden City over who they will choose as the mediator in their ongoing dispute over who pays what in the delivery of regional sewage services.

The City of Trail’s lawyer has spoken with the City of Rossland’s lawyer and the two parties are not in agreement over a preferred arbitrator.

This means the dispute resolution officer will likely have to make the final selection, Trail city councillor Robert Cacchioni said.

“What is most disconcerting at this time is Rossland’s ongoing suggestion, or position, where they believe the jurisdiction of the dispute and resolution officer to order arbitration is questionable,” he said.

“And it remains unclear if this is going to be challenged by Rossland through the courts.”

If Rossland does legally challenge the jurisdiction issue, it will ultimately delay the arbitration hearing and raises the concern for the matter that will not be fully resolved until the end of the year.

That would put the city into arrears of five years—at $109,000 per year—that they believe they are over paying in the service, said Cacchioni.

But Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom said the city could not reveal its hand right away on the matter as to what position they were taking.

“We have a position that we think is legal and plausible,” he said. “But, in the end, we’d like everybody to sit down and discuss this in person, and not have to go through the (legal) channels.”

Lois-Leah Goodwin, executive director of Intergovernmental Relations and Planning under the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, was appointed as the dispute resolution officer last month to help settle the matter of who pays for what in the delivery of regional sewer service between Trail, Rossland and Warfield.

Goodwin was required to review the matter and, under the Community Charter, direct the dispute to binding arbitration.

Trail city council had notified the province in late May it wanted to engage in the process of arbitration with the City of Rossland to determine the correct percentages of shared costs for sewage service in the Greater Trail region.

For four years the question of who pays what portion of the cost of sewer service among Trail, Rossland and Warfield has been booted around like a political football.

Trail currently pays close to 70 per cent of the regional budget following a formula created in the late 1960s, based mostly on population and projected growth.

In early April Rossland council dismissed an eleventh-hour attempt from Trail to avoid arbitration. Trail council had drafted a cost sharing proposal based on population, though it previously agreed with a mediator report that suggested the old formula was unfair, and a new formula should be based on 50 per cent population and 50 per cent water consumption.

The legal price for the process is expected to outweigh the cost difference quoted in the proposal—around $20,000.