Chilliwack school board says no to Kinder Morgan

School board trustees divided on accepting cash bonus for signing agreement, ultimately voting 4-2 against

Kinder Morgan's pipeline runs through the back end of the Vedder middle school field

It was Chilliwack school board’s turn to mull over a bonus cash deal with Kinder Morgan at its first official meeting of the school year Tuesday night.

The final answer? Thanks, but no thanks.

The Kinder Morgan pipeline already travels along the far end of the field at Vedder middle school, near the power lines.

The oil company currently has an 18-metre easement, but the proposed expansion project would require a 42-metre easement.

Kinder Morgan’s offer was to give the school district $30,910 in compensation if the pipeline expansion is completed.

The district is already entitled to receive money, although not as much, if the pipeline expansion goes through. The agreement bonus would take the place of an independent assessment, another costly move on any landowner’s part.

The board report stated: “Upon signing of the agreement, the district would also receive a payment of $2,000 to cover costs, and an additional $4,000 if the cut-off date is extended from December 2016 to December 2017.  Also, there is an incentive payment of $7,705 if the District signs the agreement before December 31, 2015.  The incentive and cost payments are payable regardless of the pipeline expansion going ahead.”

But for many, signing an agreement gives the impression of approval of the project, particularly in municipalities who have already weighed the merits and setbacks of these deals with Kinder Morgan.

The City of Chilliwack turned down $800,000 from Kinder Morgan for a similarly inked proposal back in May.

And accepting the extra money didn’t sit well with the majority of trustees.

“It certainly seems like they have us over a barrel,” said trustee Barry Neufeld, who added that the board has no business “wheeling and dealing in real estate.”

“I oppose any deal with the Trans Mountain Pipeline,” he stated.

Trustee Dan Coulter asked the board to consider the underlining message of an early deal.

“Would they use (the fact) that we signed as a social license?” he pondered, or in an effort to sway other landowners.

Trustee Paul McManus also spoke against the idea.

“It’s not about the money, it’s a philosophical decision,” he said, before voting against the deal.

Trustee Heather Maahs called the pipeline expansion a “done deal” and made a motion early in the discussion to accept the offer. Trustee Walt Krahn seconded her motion “to get the discussion started.” He ended up voting against it.

Trustee chair Silvia Dyck was in support of the agreement, with Maahs.

“I will take my pipeline issues in other arenas, where they belong, in my opinion,” she said. Dyck said the board should accept the money in the interest of the children’s education.

Another option would have been to have the field independently appraised, at a cost to the board of about $6,000. That appraisal could then be fought by Kinder Morgan, costing the board legal fees.

Trustee Martha Wiens was not in attendance.

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