City of Trail’s extra cash creates spending dilemma

Would the reserve money the City of Trail plans to use to purchase the Trail Airport be better spent on something else?

The great thing about having money in the bank is that it allows you to explore different opportunities.

If you’re renovating your house, some extra cash can be the difference between buying new appliances for the renovated kitchen or sticking with the ones you already have.

A few extra bucks squirrelled away can take the pain out of absorbing those unforeseen vehicle repairs or plumbing bills.

Some extra cash can afford you those few days of holidays that help recharge your batteries.

So when a councillor with the City of Trail stated that the city has enough reserve cash to buy the regional airport, it made me wonder if those funds could be better spent elsewhere.

When you factor in the property was originally bought for $1.5 million and add all the improvements on the to-do list and on-going maintenance, the city is taking on a rather large bill all by itself.

Don’t forget that an economic review of the airport stated that keeping things “as is,” was probably the best idea since there was limited projected growth.

Of course, that has been disputed but it still was an educated opinion.

Add in the fact the city is taking on this venture by itself and the question becomes, “is this the best use of Trail’s tax dollars?”

You always wonder when someone is quick to accept your first proposal to buy something.

And when the RDKB quickly jumped on Trail’s offer to buy the airport, it almost forces you to take a step back and say, “Why are they so eager to sell it?”

What does Trail see that the RDKB doesn’t?

In an odd twist, it sounds something like the old saying, “if you believe that (in this case that the airport can prosper economically) then I have a bridge to sell you.”

Well the city wants a bridge too but in this day and age of being fiscally prudent, the city probably can’t have both right now.

The city recently learned that it was turned down for a Gas Tax grant it was hoping would go towards the construction of the pedestrian bridge. The city is looking at about a $3 million bill for its share of the bridge. The RDKB would kick in some money since the bridge would also carry new sewage lines across the river.

We saw last year the deteriorating state of the sewer lines and it appears to me to be a bill that’s just waiting to happen. And it could, should the line break, cause quite a tab for the potential cleanup.

So we have two major purchases the city is exploring.

One, the airport, they go on their own. The other, the pedestrian bridge, will be shared with the district with, hopefully, help from grant money.

The way I see it, the airport generates some revenue but has a lot of expenses associated with it. The tireless volunteers aren’t going to be there forever so staffing may be an issue down the road.

Having the airport so close is handy but its limited destination offering doesn’t entice everyone to fly out of that airport. That could certainly change but it depends on the carrier instead of the airport owner.

On the other hand a pedestrian bridge fits right into the city’s grandiose downtown revitalization plan.

Although the original playbook to revive the downtown core and attract tourists didn’t include anything about a bridge, it only makes sense.

If the city is promoting its tax break for people sprucing up their businesses in the East Trail section near Safeway, wouldn’t it make sense to also include a foot bridge to allow tourists and shoppers the opportunity for a pleasant walk over the Columbia River while exploring the shopping opportunities in East Trail?

And don’t forget improving access to the aquatic centre or ballpark for people in West Trail.

If you want businesses to fix up their properties and draw visitors, lead the way by planning something new that will entice people to stop, get out of their cars and take a walk around.

While an airport might gain a bit of stature for Trail, allow executives from corporate headquarters to drop in and perhaps bring in some skiers for Red Mountain, a pedestrian crossing is something that taxpayers can use daily. It’s something they can touch, see and point with pride as an expenditure that helped improve the health of the city and its citizens.

There are certainly more people who would use the pedestrian bridge on any given day than most days at the airport, even with three flights during the summer.

Of course, both expenditures are still pending.

So which is the best bang for our bucks?

That’s a question that our municipal leaders will have to answer more and more as all the dollar figures begin to surface.

Once a price tag is set on the airport, then the taxpayers can judge for themselves which is the best investment for the future of the city and those extra bucks in the bank.