Trail talks bridge, books and boundaries with province

City delegation meets with government officials in Victoria

Trying to bridge a gap over the Columbia River at the south end of town had delegates from Trail council travelling to the Parliament Buildings in Victoria last week.

Following a meeting with two Ministry of Transport (MOT) officials Thursday, the City of Trail might have another way to fund tearing one crossing down and building another up.

“They now view the new (pedestrian) bridge and Old Bridge demolition as one financial package with respect to funding,” explained David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer (CAO).

The ministry appeared receptive to provide funding that would go towards the new bridge and in this way available funds could be diverted towards demolition costs of the Old Bridge, he added.

The city bought the Old Trail Bridge from the MOT in the ‘60s and maintains the $5 million price tag to tear the 103-year-old landmark down should be a shared cost between the ministry and Trail.

Funding barriers come into play however, because borrowing money to remove a structure and not having anything concrete to show for the cost is not a justifiable expenditure for Trail or the MOT, according to Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.

“To spend money and, in this case end up with nothing, does not fit the rules,” said Bogs. “It’s very difficult for a municipality to approve monies of that magnitude for a facility that will disappear,” he explained.

“Normally we are in the business of renovating or rebuilding new facilities that have a life of 50 or more years.”

The city played a little hardball with Grant Main, MOT’s deputy minister and Dave Duncan, MOT’s assistant deputy minister by presenting its position that if the province does not kick in funds to help demolish the old structure, then the bridge will be left to stand until it falls.

“We would leave it until eventually something would happen,” said Bogs. “If some part of the bridge fell into the river, with an emergency of that nature, then the province would have to be involved whether they like it or not.”

Before talking bridges, Bogs, Coun. Kevin Jolly and the city’s CAO, met with officials from the Ministry of Education to review the Trail and District Public Library’s strained resources due to high use of BC OneCards over the city’s library card.

Anyone living in the province with a home public library card can access a BC OneCard and use any other library in B.C. for free.

Municipalities receive a $10,250 grant annually from the ministry to help cover costs for BC OneCard usage, but with the Trail library servicing well over 1,000 cardholders, that money breaks down to about $9.30 per card compared to province’s averaged $88 per BC OneCard, according to the mayor.

“We gave detail to the department how this affects our service level and costs,” he said. “We talked about options that aren’t public at this point but said there must be a way to compensate us for the additional workload.”

The last meeting that day was with Coralee Oakes, minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

“This was just a reiteration that we have followed procedures that are laid out for the boundary expansion,” said Bogs. “The next element is to reaffirm that the stakeholders are still in favour of it.”

The final item on the list was the dissolution of regional recreation cost sharing, said Bogs.

“We made a presentation and summarized how this is a serious issue not only in our community but in many throughout the province,” he noted. “We just can’t afford to have this race to the bottom and the ministry needs to review it before the issue affects the health and welfare of the whole province.”

The ministry indicated legislation is in place for dual rate structures to create further opportunity to deal with outlying areas that refuse to contribute to more regionally recognized services, said Perehudoff.

“With that said, they never imagined that communities would provide individual rebates and expressed concern with this and indicated they would be reviewing it more directly.”