By Steve Hubrecht
Even with construction work temporarily on hold as the provinces Environmental Assessment Office reviews whether or not the project is substantially started, the Jumbo Glacier Resort project continues to generate discussion in the valley, with the latest back and forth centering on the rally held by resort opponents in the Jumbo Valley earlier this month and the subsequent police presence there.
A letter from Invermere councillor and rally participant Paul Denchuk in the October 17th edition of the Pioneer drew a RCMP report-length response from local Columbia Valley RCMP Staff Sergeant Marko Shehovac in the October 24th Pioneer edition, with the two bantering over the merit of four out of the ten local RCMP officers having a presence at the Saturday, October 4th rally.
They (the police) are not in our neighbourhood when theyre up there and we as taxpayers are paying for police services. Theyre up in Jumbo Valley and Jumbo municipality and Jumbo Glacier resort are not paying for police services. Thats my main concern, said Mr. Denchuk, adding that its more than an hours drive on backcountry roads to the Jumbo area and there is no radio communication capabilities up there, so the police are effectively unable to serve the rest of the valley while there.
Its almost as far a drive away as Golden, partly because you just cant drive that fast on the roads there (to Jumbo), he said. As predicted, more than 20 years ago, Jumbo Glacier Resort has now begun to drain public resources away from the populated communities of this region. If the RCMP have assessed a risk of violence in the Jumbo Resort Municipality, perhaps it is time already for that resident-less community to pay a surcharge for police services.
According to Staff Sgt. Shehovac, the Columbia Valley RCMP officers, by attending the rally, were simply doing the job they are duty-bound to do.
The area that the Jumbo Valley is within is in the Columbia Valley detachments jurisdiction. If theres an issue anywhere in our jurisdiction in Canal Flats, in Invermere, in Jumbo, wherever were going to respond, said Staff Sgt. Shehovac, adding that, technically, District of Invermere taxpayers do not pay directly for police services.
Bigger municipalities such as Revelstoke and Salmon Arm pay for their own policing, but here in the Columbia Valley our budget is a provincial budget and we are a provincially funded detachment. There may be some small percentage of tax money that goes from Invermere to fund provincial police services, but its minimal if at all, he said.
Invermere mayor Gerry Taft confirmed that all municipalities under 5,000 permanent residents, including Invermere, do not pay directly for police services, but said a small amount of property-based tax that is collected from valley residents by the district on behalf of the province does go to provincial policing costs.
The amount collected in the valley is not directly connected to the level of policing, said Mr. Taft.
Invermere chief financial officer Karen Cote told the Pioneer that a total of $224,265 was collected in 2014 by the district on the behalf of the province to go to provincial police funding. She added this equates to $93.47 per average single family dwelling in Invermere, with that $93.47 coming from a total tax bill per average single family dwelling in Invermere of $2,952.
According to B.C. Assessment data, taxpayers from Radium Hot Springs paid $87,373 to provincial police funding; those from Canal Flats paid $38,712; those from Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F paid $189,015; and those from Area G paid $55,769. Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality is included in the data, but has no taxpayers, collects no tax money and consequently did not pay to provincial police funding.
Mr. Denchuk suggested the Jumbo developers could contribute to the cost of policing in Jumbo and pointed to commitment 178 in Glacier Resort Ltds environmental assessment certificate under the heading police services in which the proponent commits to develop a plan with the assistance of police and provincial authorities and to be responsible for arrangements with the province regarding police service and adequate staffing.
Section 3.25.6 of the 2004 provincial Environmental Assessment Offices assessment report of the Jumbo Glacier Resort project touches on the issue as, at the time (2004), the District of Invermere expressed concern that the project would affect existing levels of policing in the Columbia Valley. The district suggested that adding a few thousand more people in the area (as the Jumbo Glacier Resort project may ultimately do) would require adding more police officers to the existing 10-member Columbia Valley
The RCMP will assess the potential impact on policing demands on an ongoing basis, and negotiate any incremental resource requirements with the province, as and when the need arises, reads the 2004 report, with the section concluding that the Environmental Assessment Office is satisfied that the proponent has identified and assessed the potential impacts of the project on police services, and appropriate measures can be implemented (RCMP resource adjustments) to avoid or address any potential significant adverse effects.
The Pioneer contacted the Environmental Assessment Office to clarify if, in the assessment offices view, the commitment was intended to be applicable once Jumbo municipality actually has permanent residents, or if it was intended to also be applicable during resort construction and all other phases of the project, but was unable to get a response in the limited time available prior to press deadline.