Qualicum Beach council has approved a recommendation that the town backpay nearly six years of crossing fees to the Island Corridor Foundation, something they stopped doing back in 2013.
Director of finance John Marsh prepared a report recommending that council authorize staff to negotiate with the ICF to use a portion of the rail right of way for continuation of a multi-use trail through the town, and also to renew the lease on the train station.
Marsh delivered his report to council during the town’s regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 28.
Southern Railway/the ICF currently invoices the town approximately $13,000 annually for railway crossing fees.
However, these fees have gone unpaid since 2013.
Qualicum Beach council passed a motion at a meeting on Sept. 4, 2013 to stop paying the fees until full rail service was restored by Southern Railway.
Marsh attributed the decision to stop paying fees to “frustration” at the council table back in 2013.
“There was, for lack of better word, some frustration at the council table and likely in the community as well about the railway, and there not being railway service,” said Marsh.
Although they haven’t paid the fees, the the town has put money aside for them each year.
“We always knew that we would have to pay those fees. So even though we actually didn’t make the payment to the ICF, the town has been recording those expenditures and setting up the payable to pay those amounts in the future,” said Marsh.
Marsh went on to say that if the town seeks to put in a recreational trail on ICF land, that being on good financial terms would be helpful.
“There is a strong feeling at the staff level that payment of the fees may assist with the negotiations in terms of approval for the trail system,” said Marsh.
That statement was met with smiles and laughter from some council members.
The trail would finish the connection between the downtown core and the Qualicum Beach Elementary School by Laburnum Road, according to chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland.
“There’s a section by Grandon Creek where we absolutely have to – the only way through is on ICF right of way,” said Sailland.
The trail would be a multi-purpose, multi-surface trail good for bikes and pedestrians.
The town has received a grant to help pay for the completion of the project.
Sailland says that the only way that payment of fees can recommence is through the approval of council, and he agrees that a strong working relationship with the ICF will be helpful for the town.
“The ICF is under new leadership, we’ve had a number of different discussions with them. We do a number of projects with them – our digital media studio is in an ICF building, and obviously any trail work that we do within the right of way requires their support. From our perspective, the money was always set aside, and if we could remove that element of contention, make our payments, and work in a more collaborative way moving forward, it’s just helpful for everyone involved,” said Sailland.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek moved that council approve the recommendations. It was seconded by Coun. Adam Walker and carried unanimously.
Deb Tardiff, communications manager for the City of Parksville, confirmed that the city also stopped payments to ICF/Southern Railway in 2013.