City seeks succor from province
Requesting an expedited court date in the B.C. Supreme Court is but one of the avenues the City of Castlegar is exploring after Celgar rejected the municipality’s latest offer to resolve a $3.2-million tax dispute between the city and its single largest rate payer.Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff and city CAO John Malcolm met with representatives from three provincial ministries last week (Forestry, Economic Development, and Urban and Rural Development) as part of an ongoing quest to find a new major industry taxation model that they hope will ultimately see Celgar paying its $3.2-million municipal tax bill. “We need a resolution soon,” said Chernoff. “Celgar rejected our short-term offer …they want a long-term solution in a short time frame, and that’s just not realistic. “We can’t know, now, when that bill is going to be paid.” He said the status quo is more than problematic as budget time rolls around, since another year with a deficit of 40 per cent or more of the city’s overall annual budget (the percentage Celgar’s portion represents) would be a terrific blow to city coffers. “That’s why we asked for a January court date – we need the judge to make a decision so we can move forward,” he added. “And it’s why we met with the ministries, to ask for help. We’re exploring every possible avenue to finding a solution. It’s hard, tedious work, but we’re going to just keep at it.” He said the January court date request has to be accepted by Celgar before it can be approved – despite the fact Celgar was the party to initially file suit, and there’s no word yet on whether that will happen.
In the interim, he said no imediate solutions were forthcoming from the meetings in Victoria, but he feels they communicated the urgency of the situation and that provincial officials have a clear understanding of the issues at stake.
No one from Celgar returned The Source‘s phone calls in time for this posting.