Vernon and North Okanagan
Rail tax tracks paid off
Sep 10, 2013 / 11:36 am
"Any day now", says bankruptcy trustee John McEown of Boale, Wood and Company. McEown is waiting to hear about the fate of the Kelowna Pacific Railway (KPR).
It’s been nine weeks since McEown was appointed receiver for the Vernon-based short line railroad.
He says he continues to be optimistic the railway will run again, and he is expecting a decision from Canadian National Railway (CN) as to whether the continued operation of rail service between Kelowna and Kamloops is a viable option.
At the time the bankruptcy was announced on July 8, eight Okanagan municipalities and the province of BC were owed a collective $673,997 in unpaid rural and municipal property taxes.
Although CN owns the land, KPR had been responsible for the property taxes,as part of its lease agreement.
Both City of Vernon Mayor, Rob Sawatsky, and North Okanagan Regional District Chair, Patrick Nicol, confirm that CN has paid KPR’s outstanding property taxes.
One of the largest tax bills was owed to the District of Coldstream. Newly appointed Chief Administrative Officer, Trevor Seibel, also confirmed that bill has been paid in full.
Since the receivership announcement very little information has been made public and the negotiations have taken place behind closed doors.
KPR’s industrial customers have been left with hefty transportation cost increases, dozens of local businesses are owed money, and at least 40 KPR workers are out of a job.
Last week, the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) Board of Directors voted to accept a recommendation from the Regional Agricultural Advisory Committee that RDNO staff write a letter to CN encouraging them to take over KPR’s routes.
“People in agriculture want to add their voice to the discussion. The rail lines form part of an important transportation corridor for agriculture, along with many other industries,” says RDNO Chair, Patrick Nicol.
Mayor Sawatsky says the economic impacts of losing rail service in the area could be significant for Vernon and the North Okanagan.
“Most people would be surprised to learn that some 500 jobs depend on KPR and the railway,” said Sawatsky.
In addition to the local businesses that rely on the railway and have had to find other, more expensive methods of transportation, he says the spin-off impacts to other sectors are huge.
“We certainly hope that negotiations can allow rail service to continue.”
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