West Kelowna shows frustration toward regional projects funded through gas tax

The way the Regional District plans to spend $506,000 of its share of gas tax funding has several members of West Kelowna council upset.

The way the Regional District plans to spend $506,000 of its share of gas tax funding has several members of West Kelowna council upset.

During the Regional Board’s Aug. 20 meeting, members approved submitting three projects to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for consideration and approval through Central Okanagan’s share of Regionally Significant Project gas tax funding.

The projects include spending $317,969 to upgrade and provide a backup centrifuge at a regional facility that treats septic waste; $150,000 for a regional household travel survey and analysis; $38,000 to review and update the Regional Air Quality Management Plan.

“We continue to be amazed at the different ways the Regional District can find to spend money,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.

The biggest problem, according to Findlater, is that the Central Okanagan is in tier two of the Gas Tax Agreement tier structure. If the Regional District was in tier one, the money currently allocated for Regionally Significant Project funding would transfer to the Community Works Fund.

That would mean more money for West Kelowna to utilize locally.

“We’re in tier two (so) the $8.7 million is basically under control of the Regional District rather than being allocated per capita,” said West Kelowna Coun. Duane Ophus.

“We’re fighting that…and the Regional Board supports us on that.”

Ophus admitted a portion of the money spent from the $8.7 million Regionally Significant Project pool has benefited West Kelowna; however, he is not happy about how the remaining $506,000 is being spent.

“Some of these projects, in (my) mind, are not anywhere near the top of the list for the way we should be spending this money.

“The one I had the biggest problem with was the $317,000 (centrifuge upgrade); coming to us in this fashion was really not acceptable. It was in the regional five-year plan for 2014 for $150,000. The first we heard $150,000 wasn’t going to be enough was when this report for double came to the Regional Board, with no explanation why.

“Spending money this way is not in the best interests of the taxpayers of the Regional District because it’s not planned properly and not prioritized properly.”

Westside Coun. Rick de Jong said he is especially upset with the money being spent on a regional household travel survey and analysis.

“When I see $150,000 for a research project for household travel…I’m dismayed and disappointed,” said de Jong.

Findlater agreed.

“My gut reaction is that you can probably do a survey like that for about $30,000 and still get useful information, rather than $150,000.”

Findlater and Ophus sit on the Regional Board. Both voted against funding the proposed projects.

According to the West Kelowna mayor, the Regional Board has requested to move into tier one; however, the UBCM has not yet granted the transfer.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Kelowna Capital News

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