The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) has been asked to provide greater clarity on resources being committed towards the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail project.
On the agenda for the Oct. 21 CSRD board meeting was a written request from Area F (North Shuswap) director Jay Simpson asking for information that would help the him and the board better understand the amount of staff time and expenses going towards the rail trail project.
“I have no problem with a certain amount of effort going to the rail trail project as it is a valuable resource for the area,” wrote Simpson. “What is not clear to me is what impact this has on CSRD finances and workloads, especially vis a vis moving forward on other work plans and various inputs from other rail trail partners.”
While the rail trail is owned by Splatsin, the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) and the CSRD, Simpson suggested CSRD appears to have taken the lead for the planning and build out of the project. However, he points out that only roughly 25 per cent of the trail is within the CSRD.
“As such, I would expect that the CSRD would contribute roughly 25 per cent of staff time and effort without compensation from other RT (rail trail) partners.”
Simpson also expressed concern with a suggestion he said was made at an Oct. 8 meeting that the RDNO and the CSRD would each contribute $300,000 towards erosion mitigation along the rail trail corridor. He said he wasn’t sure why the regional district would contribute 50 per cent of that cost.
Responding to Simpson’s questions and concerns, CSRD chair and Salmon Arm director Kevin Flynn said there’s no question the CSRD has taken the lead role in managing the project and that he was comfortable staff was being fairly compensated.
CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton said for the most part staff have been compensated, though there is no overarching agreement over who is taking the lead role.
“We have contracts with third parties, the Trail Alliance, to do certain things and in fairness to director Simpson, some of this stuff is blurry and it’s a work in progress,” said Hamilton. “A lot of it has to do with there’s lack of clarity because so much of the work we’re doing is grant dependent and it’s hard to advance in a coherent way until we know whether we have those monies.”
Regarding the question of whether other CSRD projects are falling by the wayside because of the work that’s being put into the rail trail, Hamilton replied, “Well, that’s the fundamental budget question. I mean, there’s an opportunity cost with every decision you make.”
Hamilton said, however, that staff would endeavour to answer those questions during the upcoming budget process.
Flynn noted senior levels of government and community partners are supportive of the project. He referred to Askew’s Foods having recently donated $100,000 towards the project.
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