Budget discussion and town hall meeting in Okanagan Falls

Kaleden residents will get a shock on their tax bill as recreation budget increases by 230 per cent

Approximately 35 people turned up at the Okanagan Falls Seniors Centre for a presentation of the RDOS 2013 budget and an Area “D” town hall meeting.

Budget highlights:

A Kaleden resident in attendance asked for an explanation for a 130 per cent increase in the Kaleden Recreation Commission’s budget.  Kal – Rec Chair, Gwen Owen, replied that the commission was seeking additional monies this year to repair the boat launch ($5,000), and an additional $45,000 to go towards community hall kitchen upgrades. In total, Kal Rec had budgeted $68,000 in hall repairs, for a 2013 budget total of $133,544, up from $58,000 last year.

The commission has applied for matching grant funding for the project, and if the funds aren’t forthcoming, the money will be placed in reserves. Additional funds will be used to upgrade hall electronics, including a large screen, in hopes of attracting convention business. The resident took exception to the huge demand put to taxpayers, reasoning that such projects should be planned in advance, and money accumulated over time in reserve funding.

“If you think I’m wrong about these priorities, I’m up for election this year,” responded Owen. The Kal-Rec board currently has five vacancies to be filled.

Town Hall Meeting

Those in attendance seemed to favour parks and recent efforts by local government to add additional lands to the local park inventory. It was suggested that outlying regions should be  compensating Penticton for the many facilities there that receive regional use. Penticton Mayor and RDOS Board Chair Dan Ashton, who was in attendance, described the situation as “give and take,” where Penticton also received benefits from being a hub for many recreational activities.

Area “D” Director Tom Siddon, who chaired the meeting, once again used his method of a show of hands to decide on the priority of topics of interest. There was a scattering of interest in the usual Area “D” issues – zoning, the KVR trail, Parks and Recreation, deer management, policing, incorporation, road maintenance and economic development – none of which seemed to be “hot button items.”

Keith Barrick, Regional Planner for BC Parks, told the gathering that work was ongoing towards the transfer of Christie Memorial Park to the regional district. He also noted that an environmental assessment was being done on property purchased last summer on Green Mountain Road, adjacent to Okanagan Falls Provincial Park. Ten thousand dollars had been allocated to the property so far, with BC Parks intent to purchase the property from the regional district in the near future. BC Parks could add another 10 sites to the park with aquisition of the property. The park attracted 11,500 visitors last year.

Removal of invasive species along the KVR trail between Banbury Green and the new sewer plant in Okanagan Falls began in the fall, as well as some bank reclamation, reported Community Services Manager Mark Woods. Some trees are also being removed along the route north of the trestle for safety and trail allowance reasons.

A $250,0000 resurfacing project is scheduled to commence soon.

Althought there were some hints given that progress was being made with respect to right of way issues along the KVR corridor north of Alder Avenue in Kaleden, the official report was that there “was not a lot to update.”

Bylaw enforcement was also discussed at length during the meeting. It was noted by one resident that bylaws must be enforced or documents like the Official Community Plan doesn’t matter. CAO Bill Newell noted that court was a last resort for residents not complying, but was a last resort because legal action was so costly. Another resident pointed out the need for the regional district to take the initiative on injunctive action where mulitple jurisdictions were involved.

It doesn’t look like an incorporation study will be coming to Okanagan Falls anytime soon. A conference call involving CAO Newell, Siddon and former Okanagan Falls Parks and Recreation Chair Bob Daly resulted in a committment from provinical officials to show up at a town hall meeting held last November that was never honoured. Provincial officials have since declared that they cannot attend the Okanagan due to budget cutbacks. They requested that Siddon take a vote with a show of hands to see if there was still interest in an incorporation study. A majority of those still present at the meeting indicated a desire to engage in a study.