After years of battling over fair cost apportionment on regional sewer, the matter may now be resolved through binding arbitration.
The communities of Trail, Warfield and Rossland have been given ample opportunity to come to a new agreement on the regional service under dispute since 2008 but even with assistance from a mediator, couldn’t find common ground.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) has now recommended the matter go to the province in hopes of finding a resolution this year, though the financial implications will not be taken into effect until 2013 with budget deadlines nearing at the end of next month.
“We are hopeful that all three participants can reach some kind of accord so that we don’t have arbitration, that would be in everybody’s best interest,” said RDKB chair Larry Gray.
“Perhaps this might be a catalyst for some continuing negotiations; certainly through arbitration, you’re never sure what the outcome is going to be.”
The regional board is still hopeful that an “outside threat” may push the partners into finding a resolution, a task consultant George Paul of Community Solutions Incorporated couldn’t do.
The mediator provided a report that found Trail should fork over about 10 per cent less than the 70 per cent it currently pays, which works out to a savings of over $100,000 a year, on the budget that sat at approximately $1.7 million in 2011 and is shaping up to about the same for this year.
The partners are still following a funding formula created in the late 1960s, which is based mostly on population and projected growth.
Paul called this formula “flawed,” as it is in no way reflective of the growth that has actually occurred and recommended the partners either move to a new formula based on 50 per cent population and 50 per cent water consumption or just population.
“We know that it will take several months before the ministry will act, it’s not something that they’re going to come by tomorrow and sit down and deal with the parties on,” said Gray, hopeful that the partners will take advantage of their last window of opportunity.
Eventually the cost and feasibility of either updating the regional sewer plant or moving to a new location will be looked at and a new formula will have to be considered again to accommodate the Beaver Valley into the service.