About 150 residents sat on the edge of their seats listening to the pros and cons of amalgamating Trail and Warfield, as the consultants hired to complete the first phase of a merger study presented a financial snapshot.
A meeting held at the Trail Memorial Centre Thursday night left many hungry for more critical information and a few with a bad taste in their mouth.
“I am not impressed,” said Warfield resident Geri Coe. “I do feel that they’re going through with their own agenda and I do not feel that they’re giving the public the right to truly understand what is going on.”
Promising that there is more information to come, should the public favour the next phase of the $34,000-study, residents were asked to fill out a short questionnaire based on the data compiled by Urban Systems.
Phase 1 of the study highlighted three amalgamation scenarios – business as usual, increased efficiencies and enhanced services – and ultimately concluded that taxes would fluctuate between a $42 decrease to a $12 increase per year for a $200,000 home.
“I hope we go for the second stage, I really do, because it will flush out some of the issues and concerns that were raised here,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.
While residential taxation sits pretty, the study projects under the business as usual scenario that property taxes for business owners in Warfield will increase by about $370 per $100,000 in assessed value, which would gradually be phased in.
“I see that financially it is not going to be a rosy picture for the people of Warfield,” added Coe, who also shared concerns of the village losing its identity.
“Although we’re very close in proximity, we are different communities,” she said. “Our winters are different – are we going to become another West Trail that gets ignored most of the time?”
Trail’s promotional coordinator Betty Anne Marino didn’t buy this plea.
“The emotional attachment – the identity of that community – those who know it, have it,” she said. “Warfield will never lose its identity, it will always be Warfield, just like Sunningdale is Sunningdale and Tadanac is Tadanac.”
Marino’s family has lived in the village for over a century and she feels the “Mickey Mouse” community will always have its own reputation.
“Our value is one of a regional community,” she said. “It’s time we forget this parochialism, me versus you, and think about us.”
Should the communities join, residents would have one council and mayor and one regional district representative.
Though fewer local politicians, the province may favour the larger community, said one consultant.
Acknowledging that Trail collects 63 per cent in tax revenue from Teck, raised concerns about financial sustainability.
Readers don’t have to look far from home to realize major industry has protested high taxation.
When Castlegar’s Celgar refused to pay its municipal property taxes in 2009, an agreement later resulted in a reduction in the pulp mill’s tax bill.
“The industrial taxation issue and concern is true, there’s no question about it,” said Bogs.
“But don’t ever think that the government isn’t at this time looking at the small community grants and if they ever change that will be the same impact as industrial taxation.”
As a result of amalgamation, the community would be eligible for a total grant of about $408,000, according to the province, which results in a net loss of $450,000.
While the meeting was merely a preliminary look at the potential marriage, some residents felt the sense of urgency.
“This process is going forward rather quickly and not all the items are on the table,” said Trail resident Ray Furlotte, who recommended that the two councils distribute a questionnaire much like the city did with the Old Trail Bridge.
Following the meeting, the amalgamation committee will decide whether the consultant should continue with Phase 2 of the study – which would look more critically at the potential new organization, as far as the number of employees, the types of services available through city hall and whether the Warfield Village Office would be kept open as a satellite hall or closed.
Should the amalgamation study move ahead, a referendum could be held next spring and if residents favour the marriage of the two communities, preliminary discussion with the province indicate the amalgamation could be completed a year later.
Phase 1 of Urban Systems’ study can be found on the city’s website at www.trail.ca