Warfield citizens question process for ending rec agreement

Concerned residents have been doing their homework and are now questioning the way business is handled by their elected officials.

Warfielders are not sitting idle while their village talks recreation behind closed doors.

Concerned residents have been doing their homework and are now questioning the way business is handled by their elected officials, who recently opted out of a recreation and culture agreement with Trail during an in-camera session.

The group is prepared to start a petition if necessary but in the meantime has contacted the inspector of municipalities to find out whether the village’s way of handling business is in line with the Community Charter.

“There has been absolutely zero information respectfully informing people from a democratic perspective on what process they are following,” said village resident Betty Anne Marino. “There were 80 people, there were seven presenters, there were six letters at a minimum (never mind their other emails) and they have not described to their residents how they’re going to incorporate that information.”

To its credit, the village is in the midst of renegotiating to keep the library service with Trail by contributing nearly $33,000 (less reimbursements made to Warfield residents for purchase of non-resident library cards); it was noted in a letter that was received by Trail council Monday night. Trail has referred this letter to the library board to get some feedback before it formally responds.

Warfield Mayor Bert Crockett said council will personally reply to all residents who communicated on this subject by the end of the month. Though Coun. Jim Nelson publicly said he is ready to put the subject back on the table for further discussion, council remained otherwise tight lipped on its plan of action Monday, pointing to formulating its next step after reconvening Tuesday afternoon to review the city’s response to its letter.

Marino was one of a handful of residents that could make the village’s regular council meeting at 4 p.m. Monday. She had to leave work early, a sacrifice she was willing to make in hopes of learning how the village was going to handle the “fiasco.” Marino expected some feedback from council after a room full of village residents previously shared their dissatisfaction with the village’s decision to pull out with no input from its residents.

“We are too small of a community to be disconnected from our neighbours,” she said. “We’re a family and it sounds like there is a divorce desired over working out our problems.”

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 month.  The village previously paid $74,500 toward recreation and $32,500 to library.

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, according to Crockett. 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 resident Mark Stephens has filed two Freedom of Information requests with Rossland and Trail to dig up communication and break down details in hopes of understanding his elected officials’ decision. The logistics don’t add up, he concluded.

As of last Thursday, the village has reimbursed just over $2,000 to residents being charged higher fees under the TRP dual-rate structure, which includes about $750 for library cards at $75 per person (with two limited per household).

“This has all been fly by the seat of their pants,” he said outside council chambers. “What happens by the end of the year when we’re at $100,000, already $20,000 over what we could have paid for recreation? Who’s going to be accountable to that? Not them, they’re not running (for re-election).”

Village resident Bill Clark connected with council earlier Monday during “coffee with council” held in the afternoon. He suggested the village sign a one-year contract for rec and culture with Trail and in the meantime develop a group of appointed residents from each community and a facilitator to weigh options together.

“At least then there is a proper path at least in my opinion that would engage our community and engage our politicians . . .” he told the Times Monday night. “And then we can be that leader. We can be the guys that say, ‘You know what, yes there is baggage, yes there’s stuff that has happened and now there is probably personality conflicts but at the end of the day we’re going to move forward in the most positive way that we can because that is what matters to our community.’”