Cities in waiting game over sewage court case

No court date has been set—with one earlier this summer postponed—in the dispute that has been ensnarled for more than one year.

Hurry up and wait is the only phrase that can describe the pending court case between the cities of Rossland and Trail over sewer system service funding.

No court date has been set—with one earlier this summer postponed—in the dispute that has been ensnarled for more than one year over the percentage each municipality pays into the regional service.

In fact, the City of Rossland is trying to arrange a pre-arbitration meeting, said Mayor Greg Granstrom, but has been unsuccessful to date.

“We need to see if there is a way we can avoid arbitration,” he said.

In January 2013 the province’s arbitrator overruled the City of Rossland’s contention of an arbitration process over the sewer system service with the City of Trail.

Rossland objected to whether the provincial arbitrator had the right to hear the dispute.

In September 2012 the two cities were not in agreement over a preferred arbitrator. Rossland believed the jurisdiction of the dispute and resolution officer to order arbitration at all was questionable.

The delay allegedly puts the City of Rossland into arrears of five years—at $109,000 per year—on a service Trail city council contends it is overpaying for.

Lois-Leah Goodwin, executive director of Intergovernmental Relations and Planning under the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, was appointed as the dispute resolution officer in August 2012 to help settle the matter of who pays for what in the delivery of regional sewer service between Trail, Rossland and Warfield.

Goodwin was required to review the matter and, under the Community Charter, direct the dispute to binding arbitration.

Trail city council had notified the province in late May 2012 it wanted to engage in the process of arbitration with the City of Rossland to determine the correct percentages of shared costs for sewage service in the Greater Trail region.

For four years the question of who pays what portion of the cost of sewer service among Trail, Rossland and Warfield has been booted around like a political football.

Trail currently pays close to 70 per cent of the regional budget following a formula created in the late 1960s, based mostly on population and projected growth.

Last year Trail council had drafted a cost-sharing proposal based on population, though it previously agreed with a mediator report that suggested the old formula was unfair, and a new formula should be based on 50 per cent population and 50 per cent water consumption.

The legal price for the process is expected to outweigh the cost difference quoted in the proposal—around $20,000.

 

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