Arm of economic development gets chopped

The EES recommended to the RDKB to withdraw funding to the LCIC after its three-year contract ends in December

Sometimes what you get ain’t what you pay for.

So when the a regional district economic development review committee decreed the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC) was too costly for what was delivered in return, the East End Services (EES) committee—that includes Rossland—agreed.

The EES recommended to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary board to withdraw funding to the LCIC after its three-year contract ended in December, and the board agreed with the recommendation last Thursday.

The EES contributed $224,000 per year to the LCIC, with Rossland taxpayers shelling out over $40,000 per year, said Rossland director Kathy Wallace.

“In the end, the decision of the review committee was that, for the current service, the requisition was too high and considered to be an unsustainable amount,” she said.

From Rossland’s perspective there are a few bodies that are already working on similar projects—the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Rossland and the Sustainability Commission’s economic development task force—and it was deemed to be unnecessary overlap.

And with the current debate raging in Rossland City council chambers over core services and the level of taxation in the city, the topic of funding something that was immeasurable to such an extent was superfluous, said Wallace.

“There is a big focus right now on what is a core service, what should we be taxing for and there is a hesitancy of burdening local taxpayers with a responsibility that might be someone else’s,” she said. “It was recognized that (the cost) was higher than it needed to be.”

The LCIC was set up as part of the Lower Columbia Community Development Team society (LCCDT) to focus economic development services within the Greater Trail region.

EES decided to go with a proposal out of the LCDDT a number of years ago to set up an arm’s length economic development service with a three-year contract that included a mandatory review. Although the service had been scrutinized repeatedly, it was tough to accurately measure what it had contributed in its short life, said Wallace.

Economic development is a very difficult thing for local government to provide,” she said. “It’s not a core service. Economic development is very difficult to measure what you are actually doing.”

The dissolution of the service now allows the partnering communities to have a discussion to see if there is an appetite to continue with a regional economic development service or not.

“Rossland council will have to have a discussion about whether they want to pursue anything, where they want to go, and that would mean re-establishing a service,” said Wallace.

Ali Grieve, chair of the EES, said the committee will meet in May to discuss the possibilities of other models of economic development and which municipalities will continue to participate going forward.

“We have to ask ourselves and remind ourselves what are “core services,” and then focus the tax dollars there,” she said.

The EES is made up of five municipalities—Rossland, Trail, Warfield, Montrose and Fruitvale—and electoral areas A and B.

All LCIC initiatives for 2013 will continue to go forward, said Mike Martin, chair of the LCCDT, but discussion will take place on how to move forward without regional district money.

The LCIC was looking to create a unified regional recruitment package to allow employers, educators, and healthcare providers to attract and retain key employees.

In August of 2010, Sandy Santori took on the position as executive director of the LCIC.

editor@rosslandnews.com

—With files from Sheri Regnier, Trail Times