Coun. Robert Cacchioni says it’s nothing personal, it’s just time to watch the purse strings.
The longtime Trail politician was speaking about council’s Monday night decision to withdraw financial support from the regional economic development service – a vote which will likely cause the demise of the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC) after seven years of operation.
Trail pays the lion’s share, 43 per cent or $78,000 yearly for the service’s annual requisition which nears $200,000.
The resolution was close – four votes against included Coun. Carol Dobie, Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson and Coun. Sandy Santori. Voting in favour of continuing was Mayor Mike Martin, Coun. Lisa Pasin and Coun. Kevin Jolly.
Group representatives from the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS) addressed council before the matter came to the table, and gave an update on the LCIC activities.
Mayor Mike Martin summarized the matter, saying all the significant investments being made, such as the Skywalk, Riverfront Centre and MIDAS Lab, need more than Trail support – they require regional and provincial support to continue to build and attract other enterprises.
Following the vote, Coun. Dobie says this particular decision was the most difficult she’s had to make thus far.
“The bottom line, and I’ve told this to Mayor Martin before, is that I am probably going to be the biggest one on council who worries about money,” said Dobie. “We are into a lot of projects right now and still have a lot to go.”
Council is looking at costs for a secondary access road to the hospital, constructing a new airport terminal building in the spring and the Old Trail Bridge tear down still has to be dealt with, she explained.
“And everyone knows our roads need attention, that’s been put on the back burner year after year,” Dobie emphasized. “You never know when something is going to go wrong (with infrastructure) it could be half a million dollars,” she concluded. “So last night was one of the toughest votes, but it was a financial decision.”
The topic landed on council table following an East End Service Committee review, which was completed a few months ago.
The regional venture had Trail paying $78,000 for the service that covers Rossland, Warfield, Montrose, Fruitvale and Areas A and B. Columbia Basin Trust committed $50,000 for three years in 2015, Area A $32,000, Rossland $30,000, Fruitvale $9,800, Warfield $8,200 and Montrose $5,500.
“First of all this (economic development service) has been on everybody’s mind for a long time,” Cacchioni told the Trail Times. “As it is, it is a soft service, not a core service and we are in a tight spot financially and looking everywhere for money,” he added. “The taxpayers of Trail have invested $25 million in the pipe bridge, the Riverfront Centre and the airport. And one of the things that was stated quite clearly at one point, is that everything that was done, was done by council.”
He says withdrawing from the economic service might just be the start of more cuts to come.
“It’s nothing against them, it is not a core service and I am only looking at the money,” Cacchioni continued. “There’s a number of other services we have to look at, like recreation for example. It’s okay for the outlying areas because we fund the majority of that function too. But money is tight and we are in a situation where we have to make choices.”
Though the current contract doesn’t expire until December 2017, the agreement mandated a review at the end of last year.
The three-year agreement was signed in late 2014 and outlined the participants could withdraw from the service in a subsequent year provided notice is given following the service review and before July 1. The contract between the regional district and the service’s regulating body, the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS) can also be terminated on notice by either party with 210 days advanced notice.
Finally, the LCIC receives flow through funding from the LCCDTS board to do all the legwork of economic development in the area.
A major initiative currently underway is the marketing of Waneta industrial lands, specifically the 5N Plus site and property previously occupied by the Waneta Expansion Project.