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RDCK residents to vote on conservation service

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The Regional District of Central Kootenay board has agreed to hold a referendum in four areas this fall on raising money for conservation projects.

Residents of Kaslo, Area D (Rural Kaslo), Area A (East Shore), and Area E (Rural Nelson) will vote on the proposal, which if approved would impose an annual $15 parcel tax on property owners to raise a total of $121,500. Staff had recommended a tax of $10.

The fund would be administered by the Kootenay Conservation Program, similar to a fund established in 2006 in the Upper Columbia Valley of East Kootenay.

Although no specific projects have been identified, the money could pay for things like water quality testing, controlling invasive weeds, fencing, and signage.

A telephone poll conducted in 2012 for the Kootenay Conservation Program found 59 per cent support in the Kootenays for a mandatory levy.

East Shore director Garry Jackman said a single referendum will be held across the four areas, as opposed to individual votes. It will require more than 50 per cent of the combined ballots to pass.

“[The service] will only be cost effective if it’s one overall referendum,” Jackman said. “Wildlife don’t stay inside one boundary and administratively it makes sense to have a more substantial pool of funds to draw from. My sense is we’ll have very similar results in all areas.”

Jackman also suggested that once established, other areas may join the service.

The vote will coincide with November’s civic elections and is expected to cost up to $25,000 depending on whether there are races for director in those areas. If successful, the cost will be borne by the new service. If it fails, the cost would be absorbed by the regional district as a whole.

However, Area D director Andy Shadrack and Area E director Ramona Faust said they are prepared to together underwrite up to $10,000 of the costs if the referendum fails. Jackman said he may join them, but isn’t able to commit himself yet.

Rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham asked staff to look into whether money can legally be set aside for that purpose.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the parcel tax would be $10 per year and raise $81,000.)

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