The regional district board has conditionally agreed to kick in its share to help restore passenger rail service to the Island — though some directors question if and when the train will reach the Comox Valley.
Last month, the board agreed to contribute $392,000 to a bridge and trestle project on the E&N line, subject to four other districts bucking up. It is also contingent on the commitment of rail service to the Courtenay train station.
Three of five districts have signed an agreement with rail owner Island Corridor Foundation. Nanaimo and the CVRD are set to sign this month.
“What guarantee do we have?” Comox director Tom Grant said Tuesday at committee of the whole. He notes ICF has limited funds. “What if they spend all their money? What if it stops at Parksville?”
Funding from senior governments and the five districts would total $20.9 million, which is expected to cover the first phase of an incremental plan to rebuild the rail line.
The ICF and Southern Rail have reached an agreement with Via Rail, but the deal needs to be ratified by each of its boards.
Grant questioned if the CVRD will be refunded if rail service doesn’t reach the Valley, which is expected by the fall of 2015.
Courtenay director Jon Ambler recognizes the potential of restored Island rail service but said the CVRD is taking the risk.
“We’re the end of the line,” he said. “I have great concern about this.”
Courtenay director Starr Winchester suggested local ICF board member Larry Jangula attend the July 29 board meeting.
“I think it’s important we have that discussion,” she said.
Winchester would also like to see a staff report about sequestering funds until train service is guaranteed to reach the Valley.
The board approved her motions.
Revised CVAC policy
The committee approved a staff recommendation to adopt a revised policy concerning the nomination or reappointment of directors to the Comox Valley Airport Commission board.
Grant, who opposed the recommendation, questions why the district is bothering with the issue, considering CVAC has “sole authority.” He recalls the CVRD board opposed the commission’s idea for compensation, but CVAC directors paid themselves regardless.
“We can make 10 recommendations but they don’t have to take one,” said Grant, who does not like the way Valley politicians have relinquished power over the airport. “We gave up control of CVAC three or four years ago.”
Ambler said a “ludicrous comparison” in a study that considered the pros and cons of a compensated model has undermined his confidence in CVAC. The study considered other non-profit transportation boards in Canada. Some operate aerodromes and deal with runway issues, as does CFB Comox, while CVAC operates a terminal.
The aim of a revised policy is to efficiently fill director vacancies and reappointments on the CVAC board. District CAO Deb Oakman recognized the commission’s nominating process has been a “little inefficient in recent years.”
Ag awareness centre
The committee approved a motion from Courtenay director Bill Anglin to have staff look into the scale and scope of a Comox Valley Exhibition proposal to construct an agricultural awareness centre at the exhibition grounds.
The idea is to have a year-round centre that the community could use for anything to do with agriculture. 4H, for instance, needs a home to host clubs and meetings. Other potential user groups include MusicFest and the Therapeutic Riding Society.
The CVEx board is not asking for money, but is seeking district approval to pursue grant funding. It proposes to construct the centre in phases. CVEx board president Andy Quinn acknowledged the Valley contains similar buildings such as the Native Sons Hall in Courtenay.
Courtenay director Manno Theos, questioning the purpose of another building, asked if CVEx could hold meetings at the curling rink.
“Far be it for me to stand in the way if they can raise the money,” Anglin said.
•The committee supported a resolution request from Ambler to address an increase in abandoned 911 calls caused by the accidental use of pre-programmed buttons on cell phones. The resolution will be forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for consideration at the next convention.
The Courtenay director said a large number of emergency calls are mistakenly made with one touch of a button. Though the operator picks up and nothing is there, 911 still has to investigate.
“It takes a disproportionate amount of police resources,” said Ambler, president of the North Island 911 Corporation. “We’re saying change the technology.”
The resolution requests UBCM to compel the CRTC to either regulate service providers to discontinue the use of dedicated buttons on cell phones and communication devices, or to require handsets to include a minimum two button push.