Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach and Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B, committed to personally presenting the costs of the Hwy. 16 action plan to First Nations councils across the regional district.
One-third of the Hwy. 16 action plan’s operating costs will be shared between communities. However, it is still unclear what the cost formula will be since it remains unclear which First Nations groups will be on board with this plan.
“Part of the issue is that if you don’t know how many players, you don’t know the dollar value,” said Miller.
Bachrah proposed this idea after the board of directors of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) expressed concerns over the short period of time left before the first buses start connecting the highway corridor in December 2016.
“It’s a chicken and the egg situation where you don’t know what you’re paying until you know who’s in,” said Bachrach. “And nobody can actually get in until they know what everybody else is paying.”
“We can’t move forward until we have commitments from all of our First Nations partners,” he added.
Regional district staff were instructed to prepare different scenarios showing how much municipalities would have to pay with and without First Nations participation.
Bachrach and Miller plan to present this formula to First Nations councils to address any concerns they might have and find out who’s on board.
When director of Electoral Area E, Eileen Benedict, questioned how the RDBN would pay for these travel costs, Bachrach said he would cover his own costs, and Miller said he would carpool with Bachrach.
Lakes District News asked which First Nations groups would be visited, but Miller and Bachrach did not respond by press time.
The provincial government will covering 100 per cent of the capital costs and two-thirds of the operating costs in the Hwy. 16 action plan. In addition, revenue from fares will be used to offset some of the operating costs by local governments.
In other transportation systems across B.C., the province usually pays only 50 per cent of the operating costs.
Burns Lake council still hasn’t determined how the village will pay for the plan.
“That question has not been brought forward to council yet,” said Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake. “As soon as the cost and fee structure are developed we will have a better idea of how it will be funded.”