Five members of West Kelowna council are utilizing their opportunity to discuss areas of concern with provincial government representatives at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities 2013 Convention in Vancouver this week.
So far, the district has brought forward the issues of crown land grants, road maintenance, a second crossing over Okanagan Lake, a Westside health centre and new approaches to federal gas tax funding with several provincial ministers.
“I’m a real defender of the value of UBCM,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.
“We have tremendous connections to the province…we have to work together.”
First the district sat down with Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, to discuss West Kelowna’s interest in securing tenure through a License of Occupation and Free Sponsored Crown Grant for 2515 Bartley Rd. for municipal yard purposes.
“We were told that progress is being made on our file and that we are very close,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.
Next, West Kelowna got the ear of Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
District representatives explained to Stone that West Kelowna conducted an assessment of its roads and bridges prior to taking over responsibility for maintenance services in December 2012. That assessment indicated $467,000 in repairs were needed.
A further inspection, conducted jointly with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, found $1.2 million in repairs was needed.
“We moved the yardsticks on that one—we will receive either some funding or some work done to district roads.
“That’s worth the price of the trip right there, to see that we’re going to get support to address some of the road deficiencies that were left with us.”
Minister Stone also raised the topic of a second crossing over Okanagan Lake.
“There are an awful lot of options and issues that need to be studied and brought together (into) one report. We’re suggesting they do a corridor study for the Okanagan Valley.”
The district spoke to Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, about its interest in changing the Canada-B.C. UBCM Gas Tax Distribution formula to provide funds directly to local governments.
“We believe that providing the funding on a per capita basis directly to municipalities would allow individual areas to pursue projects of local importance while still meeting the spirit and requirements of the fund.”
If the per capita basis funding model is not accepted, West Kelowna requests to be moved to a Tier 1 funding model, which allows 75 per cent of funding for municipal level projects and 25 per cent for regionally significant projects.
The five West Kelowna representatives were surprised Wednesday when Premier Christy Clark—who is also the Westside-Kelowna MLA—sat in on the district’s meeting with Minister of Health Terry Lake. The talk was focused on moving forward with plans for a West Kelowna health centre.
“Both Minister Lake and our MLA, the premier, are taking a great interest in this file, trying to move the health centre idea forward in terms of a facility that would involve both public and private health services and consolidate services into more of a single location in the Westbank area.”
Council then presented Premier Clark with an overview of their priorities.
“She really wants to do a good job for us, very sincerely. That’s good for us and good for the community.”
A BC Hydro representative also spoke to West Kelowna council about the district’s ongoing interest in BC Hydro providing an additional, secondary electrical transmission line to the municipality to ensure service.
West Kelowna is the largest community in B.C. that is supplied by a single line.
“Although we were told that construction of a second transmission line is even more remote than before, they appear to have done some work in an effort to protect our service.
“They conducted wildfire mitigation along the line and replaced older infrastructure, so we are less likely to experience interruption due to forest fire or failing equipment.
The councillors joining Mayor Doug Findlater at the UBCM 2013 Convention are: Rick de Jong, Carol Zanon, David Knowles and Gord Milsom.
West Kelowna council members are scheduled to meet with John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Thursday.