Warfield plays middleman in regional sewer dispute

Warfield is letting its neighbouring communities decide the next step to take on reaching a regional sewer agreement.

Warfield is letting its neighbouring communities decide the next step to take on reaching a regional sewer agreement after a mediator weighed into the service review.

The village received a report by consultant George Paul of Community Solutions Incorporated that looked to give the three partners  – Trail, Warfield and Rossland – an unbiased opinion on how to resolve a review on cost apportionment that was completed two years ago.

“Warfield has just been totally cooperative, either way we’re not picking sides, they got to work it out,” said village Mayor Bert Crockett. “(George Paul) didn’t take anybody’s side, either, he just looked at the picture and where this thing has gone and said this is just childish, he didn’t say that, but I’m saying it.”

Trail is paying close to 70 per cent of the regional budget following a formula created in the late 1960s, which is based mostly on population and projected growth. Paul calls this formula “flawed,” as it is in no way reflective of the growth that actually occurred.

“The actual population of Trail is less than 44 per cent of the estimate made more than 40 years ago, while the populations of Warfield and Rossland are between 57 and 65 per cent of the estimates,” he noted. “While it was expected that the population of the service area would grow by over 50 per cent over the forty-year period, it actually declined by 25 per cent.”

Recommendations to either move to a new formula based on 50 per cent population and 50 per cent water consumption or just population were made but neither received a green light from Rossland.

Hence Paul has asked the parties to consider four options: remain status quo; that Trail reinitiates a second service review and if unsatisfied, initiates a service withdrawal; that all parties agree the matter should be submitted to binding arbitration; or one of the parties applies for the dispute be directed to binding arbitration.

“This dispute has gone on long enough. It is affecting the relationships between the parties in numerous different and unhealthy ways,” wrote

Paul in his closing remarks. “It is a shame that in this instance local government cooperation has disintegrated to such a degree that a third party is needed to determine the future structure of this service, but I see no other solution.”

Warfield councillor Jim Nelson was glad to see the president of Community Solutions Incorporated tell it like it is and hopes the other communities will take his findings and come back to the table willing to work hard at finding common ground.

“Certainly with the conclusion here, I would feel pretty humble about the whole thing if I was the other two parties,” he said at last week’s village council meeting. “This man has got a lot of intestinal fortitude to lay it on the line the way he sees it. I think it’s maybe just about time.”

If Crockett had his way, the parties would have skipped mediation all together and slipped into Phase 2 of the sewer review, which starts up in January.

At this time, 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.

Provincial regulations mandate that municipalities upgrade municipal sewer systems to secondary treatment by 2019, otherwise face heavy fines.

The regional sewer treatment plant in Waneta provides a primary level of treatment that removes solids and adds chlorine to effluent – the minimum level of treatment, and is the only plant in the province still in operation at that level.

Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom would not provide comment at this time, as his team had yet to receive the report in council chambers while Trail has looked at the report in a closed session and will bring it back to the table Dec. 19, where council could decide to go public on its position.

“He reaffirmed I think what’s been said all the way a long as far as what Trail’s position has been,” said city administrator David Perehudoff. “The way the costs are portioned aren’t fair.”

The report has to hit the table before the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary can recommend a course of action for its service, according to regional administrator John MacLean, who suspects the board will be asked to seek binding arbitration at its next meeting in January.