RDOS board ends term unable to come to agreement on gas tax funding

Last meeting of present board prior to election leaves issue unresolved



Regional district board members want to apply regional gas tax money to the regional trails program – but a working committee made up of (CAO’s) Chief Administrative and (CFO’s)Financial Officers,  RDOS staff and members of the Union of BC Municipalities and the province would rather assign the funds to a number of community oriented projects.

That was the gist of the discussion at the regular meeting of the regional district board on Nov. 3 as several directors expressed some dismay at the direction the  4.2 million dollar funding was taking.

“We couldn’t find one big project that everyone could agree to at the working group level,” Chief Administrative Officer Bill Newell told the board.

The working committee wrestled with the problem of measuring the significance of each project listed, an important aspect of the application to the province for the regionally significant gas tax funds.

“Trails are harder to measure in terms of significance – municipal projects are easier to measure,” explained RDOS Manager of Finance,  Warren Everton.

The board ultimately decided to defer the administrative recommendation – to approve the working group’s list of projects to the UBCM – Province Management Committee for application to the Regionally Significant Gas Tax Program –  to the Nov. 17 meeting.

Last Thursday, the board of directors tackled the issue once again, dealing with a postponed  motion to “approve the regional trails project to be submitted to the UBCM provincial management committee for application to the regionally significant gas tax program.”

Allan Patton, director for rural Oliver, told the board that he could not support the money going towards trails, noting that the Gallagher Lake sewer project was his biggest priority.

Okanagan Falls – Kaleden director Bill Schwarz commented that after spending nine years on the board, the group was still not thinking regionally.

“A world class trail system attracts world class tourists,” he said, “There are health reasons for trail networks, the locals will use them – there are so many reasons to do it, but the municipalities have made up their minds. Ten votes at this table are making the decision for the rest of us.”

Keremeos director Walter Despot said that the proposal to put $300,000 towards a water reservoir for Keremeos would improve fire protection in the fire district, so could be considered regional in scope, while Penticton director Judy Sentes observed that the board was supposed to look at the “whole” in making their decision.

A vote taken on the new motion ultimately failed, as did an attempt to amend the motion to take the rural portion of the gas tax and apply it only to the Okanagan Falls wastewater treatment plant’s wetlands discharge project and the Gallagher Lake sewer project, an option put forward by RDOS staff to the working group.

With the board split on the issue, Chair Dan Ashton informed the board that the City of Penticton would begin sub regional discussions with adjacent rural areas if the partisan politics continued.

The board eventually agreed to disagree once more, postponing a decision on the matter until the next board meeting – which will be the inaugural meeting of the new board following last Saturday’s municipal election.

The Working Group projects are:

1. Keremeos water reservoir ($300,000).

2. Water supply well for Oliver ($467,400).

3.GUDI treatment wells in Oliver ($32,600).

4. Energy efficient upgrades at Osoyoos firehall ($407,143).

5. Storm water treatment upgrades in Osoyoos ($142,857).

6. LED street light conversion in Penticton ($1,200,000).

7. Wastewater treatment upgrades in Princeton ($400,000).

8. Prairie Valley roundabout in Summerland ($600,000).