April 22, 2015 - 7:30 PM
LAKE COUNTRY - By the time the results of the referendum on the CN Rail corridor purchase are in, a vote that could cause the entire deal to fail, most of the people who cast a ballot will be asleep.
“It’s the same rules as an election,” said Willene Perez, deputy chief election officer for District of Lake Country. “The ballot boxes will be sealed and then taken for hand count on Saturday night. We expect results will be announced between 10 p.m. and midnight.”
That will include the 2,853 ballots that have already been cast in four advance polls, representing over 30 per cent of the electorate.
“In advance polls alone we have beat the 2014 general election turnout,” said chief election officer Reyna Seabrook.
It’s an indication of voter interest in the purchase, which asks voters if they agree to the district borrowing $2.6 million to make it happen. Unlike during the alternative approval process, the district cannot count ballots and announce results before the general voting day, April 25.
The loss of the alternative approval process saw the district mount an aggressive promotional campaign, hoping for approval to move the rail corridor purchase forward.
Meanwhile, Lake Country Mayor James Baker, in what he termed a letter to the editor released yesterday, continued that push urging voters to make their decision based on credible information.
In his letter, Baker again railed against “misleading and erroneous” statements he attributed to lobby groups within the community, aimed at halting the purchase.
"Today the only cost to taxpayers is for borrowing to acquire and protect a 50 per cent share of the rail corridor through our jurisdiction and council can state that is all that is being asked for,” he said.
Baker said the purchase would not affect other infrastructure upgrades such as waste water treatment.
"The district can carry this loan payment without changing priorities for infrastructure upgrades. 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. "The water master plan addresses the priority projects and how to implement them, a wastewater plan is almost completed to address sewer and environmental concerns with budgets based on user fees."
He acknowledged the claims of the Okanagan Indian Band but said responsibility for resolving them lies with other levels of government.
"We recognize and respect the traditional territory of the Okanagan Nations and understand that the band has an interest in a portion of the railway corridor west of Kalamalka Lake,” Baker said. "This is a land claim issue between the OKIB and senior levels of government.”
Baker also acknowledged the encumberances held by two small-lot property owners along the corridor, but said confidential negotiations are continuing betweem the owners and the acquisition team working to complete the purchase.
He also said remediation costs for the 16-kilometre section of the corridor within Lake Country are the responsibility of CN Rail and will not be borne by taxpayers.
"Costs for removal and salvage of the railway tracks and ties and remediation to provincial regulations will be borne entirely by CN,” said Baker. "Council has taken the position from the beginning that remediation costs will not be done at local tax payers’ expense and that stipulation was included as part of the sales and purchase agreement with CN.”
Eligible Lake Country voters who still seek to cast their ballot can do it at George Elliot secondary school, this Saturday, April 25 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015