Bridge referendum goes to voters in August

City circles Aug. 23 for residents to determine fate of walking bridge

Trail voters can mark Aug. 23 as the day they will collectively decide if the city can proceed with borrowing money to build a new crossing over the Columbia River.

After a counter petition garnered enough signatures last month to quash the city from borrowing almost $5 million through the Alternative Approval Process, Trail council is putting a “yes” or “no” referendum to all Trail electors that day.

The ballot question is specific, and will ask “Are you in favour of the City of Trail enacting Bylaw No. 2775 authorizing construction and borrowing of $4,916,000 so that the sewer pipe bridge proposed by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary can also include a pedestrian walkway, water main line and fibre optic conduit?”

The bylaw, if adopted, will permit the city to borrow sufficient funds to construct a joint venture pipe/pedestrian bridge with the regional district, noted Michelle McIsaac Trail’s corporate administrator and chief election officer during Monday night council.

“The question should be framed in a clear and concise manner so that the electors understand the implications of their vote,” she added.

The fourth Saturday in August was chosen following assent from the province through the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development with a condition that voting be held within 80 days of its approval.

“It’s thought that people would be returning from summer vacation and getting back to business at hand,” said McIsaac.

Voting will be conducted in the McIntyre Room at the Trail Memorial Centre with advance voting opportunities at the same location on Aug. 13 and Aug. 20.

Additionally, the city will incorporate mail ballot voting for anyone who expects to be absent from the municipality on general voting day and the days of advance voting opportunities, or has a physical challenge, illness, or injury that affects the ability to vote on those dates.

The onus is on the voter to contact the city to request a mail ballot package and applications will be accepted from July 30 to Aug. 21, but must be returned before 8 p.m. on general voting day.

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Through the AAP, 10 per cent of Trail’s registered voters signed a petition to halt the city from borrowing money to build a walkway over a new regional sewer pipeline slated for construction upstream from the Old Bridge.

Trail Coun. Robert Cacchioni is concerned that a poor voter turnout for the bridge referendum could mean that a small percentage of residents will ultimately decide the fate of a second crossing over the Columbia River.

“I am all for the democratic process,” said Cacchioni. “My concern is that if only 200 people show up to vote and 101 vote ‘No,’” he continued. “Then those 101 people out of 5,733 registered voters in Trail determine the vote.

“And that is not democracy.”

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) Sewerage Committee authorized staff to proceed with the review of the pipe bridge crossing prior to the city’s advancement of the proposed pedestrian crossing, according to Bryan Teasdale, RDKB’s manager of infrastructure and sustainability.

“As the RDKB originally approached the city to review the possibility of partnering on some type of multi-use crossing in this location,” said Teasdale. “The city took us up on this offer in order to hopefully reduce their costs of any new crossing option in this location that we expect would be a benefit for the entire region.”

Walking platform or not, Trail taxpayers will fork over 62.5 per cent, or over $2.8 million towards the cost to build a structure across the river to support a new sewer line

“You cannot build the sewer line section and go back after and say, ‘Hang on, I want to put a walking bridge on,’” said Cacchioni.

“Make no mistake, if we don’t proceed with this time sensitive choice, you will have a pipe crossing the Columbia River near the Old Bridge.

“And that’s all you will have.”