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Rossland voters asked to rule on water/sewer ownership

Mayor urges ‘yes’ vote, says issue is a rubber-stamp
The city wants to own its own sewer system, but it has to pass a referendum first. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Rossland mayor Kathy Moore is calling on residents to vote ‘yes’ in a referendum on Election Day.

Besides voting for city councillors and a school trustee, voters are being asked to decide the ownership of water and sewer services for Rossland, Warfield and Trail.

The referendum asks voters if they approve of a plan to separate out the ownership and maintenance of those lines from the Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary, to each individual city. Warfield’s lines would continue to be operated by the RDKB.

“These sewer collection systems have been owned by the RDKB since 1969,” said RDKB spokesperson Frances Maika. “The RDKB’s East End Regional Sanitary Service operates and maintains these assets, as well as the Columbia Pollution Control Centre and various sewer pumping stations.”

Rossland, Warfield and Trail are all members of the regional district, and residents in these three RDKB municipalities pay taxes to cover the cost of the East End Regional Sanitary Service.

That combined service could now be officially split up so each municipality owns its own pipes. That question is now before voters.

“B.C. law requires that a referendum take place to determine if the electors in the RDKB service area are in agreement with the transfer of these assets from the RDKB to the municipalities,” Maika said.

The RDKB will ask the electors in Rossland, Trail and Warfield two separate questions in this referendum.

“In short, they each want to own, operate and maintain the sewage collection pipes that serve each of their communities,” she said.

‘Administrative detail’

“It’s really an administrative detail that needs to be cleaned up,” said Mayor Moore. “It’s just affirming the situation as it is now.”

Moore said the city already pays for its sewage disposal based on how much it produces, and the transfer of ownership will mean it will maintain its share of the pipe, rather than paying the RDKB to do so. So the vote on Saturday won’t have much impact on taxpayers.

“It’s actually how it has been since about 2012,” Moore said. “For whatever reason, the RDKB didn’t know at the time this was going to trigger a referedum question, because it turns out it’s provincially required there be electoral consent because it is a jointly-owned asset.

“It’s going to have a miniscule impact on fees,” she added. “If anything, we’ll save a little money on it because we think our public works can maintain that pipe cheaper than paying the regional district… but the difference is pennies — it’s not a big deal.”

Because the asset is collectively owned, the referendum will be collectively tallied among the communities. Approval will be obtained if a majority in all three communities are in favour.

A failed referendum question means that the RDKB will continue to own, operate and maintain the system.

Here’s the question as it will appear on the ballot:

Do you assent to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary disposing of those portions of the sewer service infrastructure that are located within the City of Trail to the City of Trail?

Do you assent to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary disposing of those portions of the sewer service infrastructure that are located within the City of Rossland and that portion of the sewer service infrastructure located between the boundary of the City of Rossland and the boundary of the Village of Warfield, to the City of Rossland?