LETTER: Port Alberni’s council made right decision to shutter tourist train

In 20 years, municipal taxpayers have covered a $9 million cumulative operating shortfall…

To the Editor,

To some, Port Alberni City Council and Mayor Sharie Minions’ decision to curtail railway operations this year, was a wrong-headed one. To others, the decision was overdue. Twenty years of empirical data indicates insufficient public interest in purchasing the product. Otherwise, attendance and revenue figures should have risen over the same period.

In 20 years, municipal taxpayers have covered a $9 million cumulative operating shortfall for the railway and mill, not including expenses to municipal taxpayers for staff time, CUPE time, legal, previous dam repairs and stream relocation, or other incidentals. Railway infrastructure is estimated to cost $1.2 million in the next decade, not including locomotive maintenance, insurance, regulatory compliance, and other operational expenses.

The young mayor had moxie to curtail operations of the railway with a decision that was at odds to very entrenched positions who see otherwise. I believe we all appreciate the sentimental aspect for those in support of keeping the train operating. The thousands of hours by many individuals who have volunteered their time to railway operations, is also acknowledged. But the decision rendered Feb. 19 has been coming for a number of years, even if people didn’t want to admit the day might actually arrive. What was missing until now, was the political will to make the decision. No longer.

The vast majority in ardent support of maintaining the status quo for the railway, are from the generation preceding Mayor Minions. For many years, administrations have taken on “nice to have” projects, while simultaneously under funding or inadequately addressing critical city infrastructure. Mayor Minions wants this to change. Her decision makes this clear.

It is her generation, and the one following, who will pay the cost of my boomer generation, and those older than I who still exercise a great deal of influence in both politics, and where public money is spent, does not accept that some publicly funded projects are not as sentimentally or fiscally important to Mayor Minions’ generation, as they might be to mine.

It is their future into which we cast what should be our commitment today, to proper and adequate infrastructure renewal. It is inappropriate for us to ignore that responsibility, or to place that burden solely on future generations. Good for Mayor Minions for wanting to change this paradigm.

Roland Smith,

Port Alberni

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