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Area D residents to expect nearly 8 per cent tax increase this year

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
March 7th, 2013

Increased costs at the Aquatic Center and a new regional park among reasons for a 7.95 per cent tax increase to Regional District Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) Area D property owners in 2013.

A $200,000 property can expect to pay $606.06 – or $44.61 more than they did in 2012 to help offset some changes coming for the area, if the proposed budget is approved next month. Of those taxes collected, 39 per cent go to the province to fund things like schools, roads and policing. About 36 per cent pay for RDKB services an 3 per cent pay for hospital services.

The increase didn’t seem to faze the nearly 100 Area D residents who packed into the Seniors Center in Grand Forks on Monday, March 4.

John MacLean, the RDKB chief administrative officer, chaired the meeting because Area D director Irene Perepolkin is still recovering from a stroke she had last month. Perepolkin has handed the reins over to Area D alternative director Roly Russell temporarily until she recovers.

“It will be a slow recovery,” said MacLean at the onset of the meeting. “She is not quite ready to come back to work yet.”

“Irene seems to be doing well,” said Russell. “She is working hard at recovering. She still has limited speech, so it is unclear how long it will take.”

This year Area D residents can expect a new regional park at Saddle Lake, an Official Community Plan meeting, an increase of hours at the Aquatic Center, being the next to have green bins in the district and a possible referendum on establishing stable funding for the Phoenix Ski Hill.

Area D next to be on the Foodscraps Collection program

Area D residents will be the next to join Grand Forks in the Foodscraps Collection program, also known as the Green Bins.

The bins are used to divert compostable scraps from the garbage and to a composting area at the dump where it is made into soil for use by the RDKB.

Last year Grand Forks ran a pilot project on the program and have now gone city-wide. MacLean said the RDKB has already seen a reduction in garbage of between 40 and 50 per cent coming from Grand Forks.

Area D is set to follow, although there is no date set for start of implementation.

MacLean said there is both a financial and environmental reason for making the change.

“We don’t want to build a new landfill,” said MacLean. “That is a nasty meeting to have – no one wants one close to where they live.”

Saddle Lake Regional Park

There will soon be another lovely local place to take a stroll when the RDKB officially opens Saddle Lake up as a regional park this coming year.

The RDKB has taken over the dam at Saddle Lake from the past water license holder, made an application for Crown Land tenure to attach the Saddle Lake area to another tract of land on Hardy Mountain that is owned by the RDKB and had an engineer study the dam.

The dam is considered a “high consequence” dam, meaning that if it let go, there are four houses below it that could be harmed, said MacLean.

An engineer was hired to access the dam and make sure all the necessary work would be done to it to keep it safe.  It cost $30,000. The other money that will be coming from taxes will be used to have a walking path put around the perimeter of the lake, some benches installed and some safer parking options.

Right now parking is limited to about two vehicles before the narrow road is completely blocked.

One resident questioned why Saddle Lake was saved and not Marshall Lake, which is located below Phoenix Ski Hill, close to Greenwood.

“its costs were higher and there was more uncertainty of what was wrong with the dam and the costs (to repair it),” said MacLean. “There was a lot of risk there and we didn’t feel it was worth it … We felt Saddle Lake was more of a benefit to the public.”

Survey to go out for Phoenix Ski Hill funding question

The RDKB would agree to help the Phoenix Mountain Alpine Ski Society with a funding commitment and service agreement if Area D residents are willing to pay the extra taxes, said MacLean.

MacLean agreed to put together a survey for area residents to determine if the population as a whole would like to commit tax dollars to the non-profit family hill.

PMASS has been asking for a commitment of $60,000 a year to help augment the operational costs of the hill. They want a service agreement with the RDKB similar to the one the Grand Forks Curling Rink has – it gets $35,000 a year from Area D taxes.

“Think about it as a community and get back to us,” said MacLean.

MacLean did not indicate when that survey would be ready.

A referendum is also an option, but it is the most expensive option with the average referendum costing $10,000.

Aquatic Center looking to return to longer hours of operation

Over the past few years the Grand Forks Aquatic Center has been reducing their operating hours and lengthened the maintenance closure to save money, said MacLean.

They now want to return to the old service levels of operating, which means increasing their costs, said MacLean. The estimated increase is $60,000 a year from Area D residents. They already contribute $214, 268 to the nearly $800,000 budget.

“The challenge is in the timing,” said MacLean. “With Irene getting ill, we can’t include her in the discussions. Unless there are drastic changes there won’t be an increase because we need a motion … she would ask the group if she was here.”

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