Warfield residents have started their own consultation process when it comes to their village council opting out of a recreation and culture agreement with longtime partner, Trail.
Constituents are spreading word of delegates poised to speak at the village’s upcoming meeting Monday at 7 p.m.
Betty Ann Marino, a Warfield native who moved back to the village in 1999, was shocked to hear the news.
“I want to pay my fair share and I believe in the regional presence of our communities,” she said. “I value inter-dependence, that’s what I’m promoting, and I want to move more toward a regional view and away from this independent view.”
The decision to no longer cost share with the city under the Trail Resident Program (TRP) was made during an in-camera council meeting last week, which could ultimately result in Trail taxpayers covering the loss of Warfield’s $74,500 contribution toward recreation and $32,500 annual payment to library services.
Marino would like council to revisit this decision and a public meeting held to gather input from village residents, which could then result in an informed decision on behalf of residents, not behind closed doors.
Jackie Patridge, Warfield’s director to the Trail and District Public Library board, was surprised she wasn’t informed personally. Instead, she read about it in the Trail Times.
“It saddens me that a political decision made by the council will have such a dramatic effect on the children of Warfield,” she told the Times. “I, along with every resident of Warfield had no advance notice.”
Though he admitted he expected some disappointment from residents, Warfield Mayor Bert Crockett said he’s heard mixed views on cost sharing for recreation and culture.
He said council looked at several options – including an informal inter-municipal agreement, remaining status quo under the TRP and a reimbursement program. Some of these options included higher taxes for residents or going to referendum during municipal elections in November, he said. It was ultimately decided to wait out the year under a reimbursement program, which would allow the new council to make an informed decision, once the village receives program dollar specifics from Trail.
Warfield’s reimbursement program is effective immediately and users are asked to bring a receipt to the village hall, with a pay-out expected to take up to two weeks.
“We want to get some solid numbers to pass onto the next council and then they can look at those numbers and enter into any type of agreement or whatever they’d like to do at that point,” said Crockett.
“But we’re not going to tie them to any mistakes we might make.”
Disbanding the 60-year partnership was not a political move, he said. To the contrary, Crockett says it sends a message that it’s time that the region starts to look at a district municipality, instead of seven councils governing 21,000 residents.
The village’s decision comes on the heels of the Beaver Valley Recreation committee choosing to end its cost sharing agreement with Trail in December, leaving Trail scrambling to cover an immediate $209,000 loss to recreational services.
David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer, said that Trail previously asked the other communities to contribute to what was felt to be fair in terms of the city’s overall deficit for recreation services, which in 2014 will approach $3.3 million.
For now, soccer players that live in Warfield will have to buy a sports pass since the village doesn’t have any fields in its jurisdiction, he said, adding that a potential sports pass will have to be looked at in preparation for next minor hockey season.
Trail is currently reviewing the TRP rates to determine if they are still appropriate based on the current level of tax subsidy, the city will also discuss the individual reimbursement programs now being established as a work around to paying a fair and equitable amount toward operating facilities when it neighbours don’t provide similar facilities or services, and has requested a meeting with the Minster of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
“The majority of public services and facilities, including such things as schools and hospitals, would not be available if the total user-pay approach was universally adopted,” said Perehudoff.