Langford council wants details of how the Island Corridor Foundation is spending taxpayers’ money, and they want a seat at the table where those decisions are made.
“Not only are you not running a train, you’re paying a subcontractor who’s not running a train as well,” Langford Mayor Stew Young said at Monday’s council meeting. “I need all the information. This is almost like two sets of books.”
Langford continues to call for an opening of the ICF’s books, including those of subcontractor Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, after the City was charged a $50,000 land-use fee for the ability to construct an E&N Rail Trail connector along Atkins Avenue on an ICF right-of-way. Council had previously rejected the ICF’s permissive tax exemption for 2015.
“What’s missing there is the revenue paid to (Southern Rail) … They’re a subcontractor. They’re not an owner of this track, we are,” Young said.
The addition of this land-use fee prompted the City to ask for help from the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities. Langford hopes the association will work with them and other impacted municipalities, regional districts, First Nations groups and the ICF board to conduct a financial and governance review of the foundation.
“It may mean a few more people sitting around the table, but that’s okay because right now it’s not working,” Young said of the ICF board.
“We have to monitor the expenses … and the fee structure has to be ratified.”
The City also wants the review to include the consideration of alternative transportation methods, if the cost of resurrecting rail travel proves too expensive.
“Everything we are doing … is in support of running the train, because Langford has been a supporter and an initiator all along,” said Coun. Lillian Szpak.
The ICF was established in 2003 to oversee management and operation of the E&N rail line.
However, Langford council members are questioning the costs of continuing to support the ICF.
“They seem to be managing land use more than running a train,” Young said.
Coun. Lanny Seaton said “something that bothers me, too, is they charge us for maintenance of the railway crossings and I have never seen a list of when that’s done or who has done it.”
On Monday council approved paying the $50,000 to enable the trail connection project to proceed.
But they also voted to review the community benefit of providing a permissive tax exemption to the ICF on a yearly basis until the rail line is operating again.
According to a staff report, tax records indicate that taxes assessed for the entire length of the ICF’s corridor within Langford were just over $47,500. These taxes were outstanding at the time of the report and have incurred a 10 per cent late fee of roughly $4,700 as well as an interest charge of $8.14 a day, totally $333.93 as of Feb. 10.