Sewer dispute: Arbitrator overrules Rossland’s protest

The Cities of Trail and Rossland will be going to court over who pays what in the regional sewer service.

The City of Rossland’s contention with an arbitration process over a sewer system service snafu with the City of Trail has been flushed down the toilet after the province’s arbitrator overruled their protest.

The objection Rossland entered on the sewer dispute as to whether a provincial arbitrator had the right to hear the dispute has ruled against Rossland.

That means the two cities will be going to court over who pays what in the regional sewer service.

“So we are proceeding with the arbitration and hopefully we can get this done and over with,” councillor Rick Georgetti said last week.

Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom said he could not comment on the proceedings now before the court.

In September the two cities were not in agreement over a preferred arbitrator. Rossland believed the jurisdiction of the dispute and resolution officer to order arbitration at all was questionable.

The delay puts the city into arrears of five years—at $109,000 per year—on a service the Trail city council contends they are over paying for.

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 in August 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.