As part of Warfield’s fact-finding mission in tracking down a new water source, village council has asked the City of Trail to consider becoming its future H2O provider.
While the city agreed to nothing except to go ahead with a “capacity study,” funded strictly by Warfield, it’s how carefully both sides are treading that’s really interesting – and not quite as clear.
The request landed on Trail’s table during the Monday governance meeting. And, such a precisely worded request has resulted in a carefully crafted response from the city.
That’s because a merge on anything between the two municipalities has been a hot topic in local politics for decades, and today’s Warfield leaders wanted to ensure that talks about water provision would not drift off point.
“The Village of Warfield would like to separate the sale of water from amalgamation discussions,” Warfield Mayor Diane Langman began. “If tied together, water and amalgamation, there is the strong likelihood of an emotional response from our residents,” she continued.
“However, if treated independently, there is a higher possibility of success for both,” she added. “We would like the information to be available to both of our residents independent of one another, which will aid in easing the negative reactions in the past to amalgamation when water was tied to this topic.”
After many years of strife, does this mean amalgamation is actually back on the table?
Especially if Warfield is not financially capable of paying millions of dollars for a new water source?
“Further to that, the Village of Warfield would also like to pursue a Phase 2 Amalgamation Study with the City of Trail if there is interest,” Langman said. “A lot has changed since previous discussions between our councils and I feel that our councils have worked hard to develop a new relationship with trust, respect and understanding. I hope that together, we can come up with a solution that will work for both of our municipalities.”
The answer to the latter is a tangled web, and Trail council chose to hold an amalgamation study in abeyance pending the outcome of the water capacity study.
Although the city is not addressing a potential union at this point, Mayor Lisa Pasin did clarify council’s decision regarding the water issue.
“Warfield approached Trail with this request for water and it is Trail council’s duty to first and foremost ensure that the city does not jeopardize or expose Trail residents as far as future water supply is concerned,” Pasin told the Trail Times.
“Further, the City of Trail has made significant investment in its infrastructure to provide water to our residents and its infrastructure needs to be appropriately valued if Trail was ever to provide water to Warfield either as a bulk purveyor of water or in an amalgamated situation,” she said.
“As such, all costs to study the implications of proceeding should be borne by Warfield and the Trail taxpayers should not subsidize these costs. If the city is deemed to be in a position to provide water to Warfield, the village should pay for all costs associated with proceeding.”
The next step, or “capacity study” of the city’s current water system needs to be completed to fully assess if Trail has enough water to supply the village, and study what infrastructure investments will be required to accommodate the request.
“Trail council has determined that it is not appropriate for the taxpayers of Trail to provide a subsidy to Warfield,” Pasin concluded.
“Nor would it be appropriate for Trail to assume any risk to the current water supply for existing Trail users when considering whether or not to provide water to the village.”
The reason Warfield council is focused on sourcing a new water supply right now, is because a longstanding water agreement between the village and Teck will come to a close in 2025. As part of ending the relationship, Teck has asked Warfield to secure its plans with a new purveyor within the next four years.
That led to a detailed Water Feasibility Study which contains a number of recommendations. Topping the list is advancing the idea of a water supply agreement with Trail, which the report notes, “could result in an amalgamation process with the City of Trail, and if so, (participation) in completion of an amalgamation study.”
Since Trail council’s decision was made on Monday, Warfield council has yet to reconvene.
“The Village of Warfield council is wanting to do our due diligence in exploring our options,” Langman said last week.
“We need and want to do this as a responsible governing body on behalf of our residents. Right now we are on a fact and information gathering mission so that we can present the best option to our residents.”
A community consultation will be forthcoming once all the options have been exhausted.
“There is a lot of information though that needs to be worked through and verified before we are at that point,” she cautioned.
Historically, Teck Metals provided treated potable water to the village. As drinking requirements changed, Teck and Warfield entered into a water agreement in 2008, which will result in the village taking control of its water supply in three phases. The first two stages were completed by 2010, resulting in Teck now supplying raw water to the municipality with the village now owning and operating the treatment plant. The agreement requires Warfield to construct its own raw water supply by 2025.