Nelson turned down Trail’s request for a letter of support in their New Building Canada grant application for a secondary access road to the Trail hospital in a 3-3 tie at the most recent council meeting.
“I don’t see the defeat of this motion in any way as a slight to Trail. The motion was very seriously considered and there was support for it, but we’re applying for the same money,” said Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak, who voted in favour of sending the letter.
Councillors Janice Morrison, Valerie Warmington and Michael Dailly voted against the motion.
Previously Nelson council received a letter from Trail mayor Mike Martin asking for support to build a second access road in case of emergency, as the hospital is a regional resource that many Nelson residents take advantage of.
And though the councillors said the road was needed, they felt the application could go on without their written support.
During debate, councillor Morrison expressed reservations about sending the letter because she wasn’t sure what kind of judging matrix would be used, and she didn’t want to bolster Trail’s application to the detriment of Nelson’s projects.
Also, she wondered aloud whether the access road should be under the jurisdiction of IH, rather than local governments.
Kozak agreed that the judging process used on applications isn’t always transparent.
“It seems to be a bit of mystery,” said Kozak, noting they’re often not told why their applications are successful or not.
“One thing about grants that are distributed from the provincial and federal levels is they quite often put us smaller communities in competition with each other,” she said.
“Nelson a few years ago put forward a motion that instead of doing that, all the applications could be received at that level and then prioritized. That way, say you’re not successful this year, but you know in the next few years you will be. I’m not sure if there’s going to be reform at those levels but I hope so.”
She said she finds the competitiveness “destructive” and she reasserted her intention to strengthen ties regionally.
In the past, Nelson has received funding for the skate park while Trail was unsuccessful, which some take as a sign that Morrison’s fears are well-founded.
“They’ll still put forward their proposal and they’ve got a good chance of going forward. We’ll see how they fare,” said Kozak.
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Robin Cherbo voted against the motion.)