Regional District of Nanaimo directors applying pressure to Island Corridor Foundation

The directors passed a motion demanding the ICF turn over a copy of a consultant's report

Regional district directors want more answers from the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF).

The board passed a motion unanimously at Tuesday night’s regular meeting to apply pressure on the ICF to provide the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) with a copy of its consultant’s report on the effectiveness of the proposed E&N railway repairs.

According to director Julian Fell, who represents Coombs/Errington, the province hired a railway engineering firm to assess the viability of reviving the railway, but the results haven’t been shared with local governments that are providing funding for the project.

Fell brought up the motion earlier this month saying “we’re sitting here just waiting for the province to make up its mind… concerning the funding of the ICF and I think they are going to twiddle around and doodle and do nothing unless we give them a push.”

Fell said his motion is meant to “get the ball rolling.”

In a close vote last year, the RDN decided to give the ICF almost $1 million to help revive passenger rail service on Vancouver Island. Fell, along with directors representing Bowser, Nanoose Bay, Qualicum Beach and Parksville, voted against the funding request, but the motion passed on the strength of the RDN board’s Nanaimo contingent.

The ICF has been seeking funding from both the provincial and federal governments after regional districts up and down the Island agreed to kick in a total of about $7 million.

Matching funds from Victoria and Ottawa were supposed to give the ICF more than $20 million, money the ICF vows will be enough to get the track operational.

Meanwhile, the board was updated on the ICF’s annual general meeting held April 23 in which a staff report concludes “the project remains stalled at the provincial and federal levels as they undertake their final analyses and reviews necessary to release the dedicated funding.”

RDN chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson said the nearly $1 million committed by the regional district to this project will only flow to the ICF once the provincial and federal funds are tendered and confirmed.

Nanaimo Coun. Bill Yoachim wondered what will happen to the RDN’s monetary contribution should the project fall flat.

“The funds for the contributions to the ICF were collected through the regional grants and aid function so they rest in a reserve,” explained Thorkelsson. “If the money is to be used for something else that’s a decision of the board, but it could be used for other grants in part or in whole or it could go back to the taxpayer in some other shape or form.”

Fell called it “unfortunate” that the RDN board wasn’t aware of the ICF’s AGM, noting two concerns about the report.

“There’s a new service agreement between SVI (Southern Railway of Vancouver Island) and ICF which is in the works and this could lock the two together for some time,” said Fell. “We don’t know what’s in it and given that the members could very well choose to change the status of the Corridor Foundation depending on how things evolve, there could be legal entanglements to the members.”

Furthermore, Fell noted an “intention to give control of the Alberni subdivision, the line that runs from Parksville station to Port Alberni, totally over to the Alberni Pacific Railway.”

He said that represents 40 kilometres of public assets, mostly which lie within the Coombs/Errington region that would be managed by “an outside agency.”

Fell said he wants to see a representative from the Coombs/Errington area have input on this development.

He made notices of motions addressing each of the issues and will bring them forward at the next committee of the whole meeting June 9.

Additionally, Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay, the RDN appointee to the ICF board of directors, was elected as chair of the ICF board by its membership at the recent AGM.

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