RDKB chair wades into sewer talks

“Right now, spending large dollars in communities is really difficult because the money just isn’t there.” - Chair Grace McGregor

Emotion mixed with a lot of money can lead to spending on things that aren’t wanted or needed long-term. Or emotions mixed with a lot of money can prevent what needs to be done or wanted long-term.

So with the rise in discord over the future of the regional sewer line, Grace McGregor exercised her right to step in and take over as chair of the service’s committee, which is an action she doesn’t take lightly.

McGregor is board chair of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) and director of Area C (Christina Lake). But Tuesday afternoon she became chair of the Sewerage Committee, which is a position she will retain in the foreseeable future.

“When you have participants that are spending an awful lot of money, and we are talking about spending an awful lot of money,” McGregor told the Trail Times Wednesday. “They need the freedom to be able to represent their respective councils at the table without the constraints of chairing a meeting.”

McGregor was referring to the contention between participants in the regional sewer service, the cancellation of the Aug. 5 sewer meeting at the behest of then-chair Robert Cacchioni, and the latest reports about the cheapest way to replace the aging interceptor line currently hanging off the Old Trail Bridge.

“There was a bit of apprehension because one of the meetings was cancelled by the chair,” she explained, adding, “He felt that was the right thing to do because there wasn’t enough information at that time.”

That upset another participant, she said, and when there is emotion attached to such a substantial investment, then “you’re better off not to chair a meeting.”

Right before general voting day, Aug. 23, for Trail’s referendum that sought assent for the city to borrow millions to build a pedestrian/pipe bridge, the regional district released an updated report that outlined other and less pricey ways to string a sewer line across the Columbia River.

Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom was vocal at that time and vented frustration that options could have been clarified instead of cancelling the meeting, no agreement had been reached between regional partners, and a final decision wouldn’t happen until after the sewer committee reconvened Sept. 2.

McGregor concedes that she chaired the Tuesday meeting for “everyone,” not just Rossland and Warfield.

“I did it for Trail also,” she said. “In a service this size everybody is involved, and everybody is looking at some pretty large dollars,” continued McGregor.

“Right now, spending large dollars in communities is really difficult because the money just isn’t there.”

Warfield stayed out of the spotlight over the last few months. But Wednesday morning, the village’s Mayor Bert Crockett, said that McGregor kept the meeting on point, and he confirmed that Rossland and Warfield offered Trail $2.7 million toward construction costs of the new pedestrian/pipe bridge.

“What we are all interested in is getting the sewer off the old bridge and getting it across the river.” he noted. “We’ve narrowed down the options and our choice is the cheapest for taxpayers in Rossland, Warfield and Trail.”

That number is only half of what Trail is asking from its regional sewer partners.

In a City of Trail letter dated July 25, the city asked the sewer committee for a lump sum payment of $5.4 million for the regional district’s share of the bridge construction costs.

“We put in that offer as a start to negotiations,” explained Crockett. “And as a start of where we can go to help them with the pedestrian bridge,” he said. “We are trying to be fair and wear our regional hats.”

The cheapest crossing option, which remains as a “Class D” estimate and can’t be used for tendering, is $2.7 million to redirect the sewer main through the city of Trail and hang it on the Victoria Street Bridge.

The city maintains that the development and costs of the pedestrian bridge plan provides synergistic opportunities to carry utility lines across the river and to provide a modern walkway and cycling crossing for everyone in the region.

“We are not the one who is going to say, ‘You have to do this,’ or ‘You have to do that,’” said McGregor.

“And for me, because I am Christina Lake, I have no stake in this service. So it’s easy for me to keep the meeting on track, keep them talking about what they need to, and not let it get clouded with a bunch of personalities and emotions.”