Lake Country residents are expected to turn out in high numbers Saturday to determine the future of a proposed rail trail.
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at George Elliot Secondary School, with residents being asked to borrow $2.6 million to purchase the rail corridor within the municipality.
“We need to have a vision for the long term; and the future of our community will be greatly enhanced by the local control of the corridor within our jurisdiction,” said Mayor James Baker in a letter to the media.
“Our control of the corridor is a wise investment fiscally, socially and environmentally — the three major factors that make Lake Country a great place to live.”
The overall price tag for the discontinued Canadian National line from Kelowna to Coldstream is $22 million, with the remainder of the funds coming from the Regional District of North Okanagan and Kelowna.
While the purchase has many supporters, other Lake Country residents are concerned.
“Those people that are opposed are not bad residents,” said Guy Bissonette, with Taxpayers 4 Responsible Tax.
“They don’t lack community spirit. They are just saying there is a better way to spend our money. We’re not saying no to tax increases, we’re saying let’s use our tax increase for our crumbling infrastructure.”
Bissonette says Lake Country taxpayers will be on the hook for $5.1 million when repayment of Kelowna’s $2.5 million investment in the rail corridor in Lake Country is factored in.
He also claims there will be much remediation work to the corridor once CN Rail removes the ties and rails.
However, Baker insists the district can repay the loan without impacting other infrastructure.
“As a part of our asset audit and management planning, we have identified infrastructure valued at $160 million that is in various stages of depreciation,” he said.
“We know from other models that there may be options, other than taxation, for funding development and maintenance of corridors like this including stimulus funding, government grant programs, fundraising and foundation contributions, and we will be exploring those.”
A total of 2,853 people cast ballots in five advance polls.
— with files from Black Press reporter Kevin Parnell