It’s better to be right than to be first. It’s an old journalistic adage that Penticton’s council would be advised to heed.
More than a few eyebrows were raised after council hammered through a pair of motions on the eve of last fall’s municipal elections. The speed with which the decisions were made prompted a barrage of questions and concerns.
During a special meeting on Oct. 26, Penticton council approved the sale of nine-city-owned lots on Eckhardt Avenue for $925,000 to a developer proposing a hockey dormitory for the site. Two days later, another special council meeting stripped the city’s tourism, economic development and visitor information services from the chamber of commerce and handed them over to the Penticton Business Development Group, an organization that had yet to be even registered.
Fast forward four months and both deals have evaporated into thin air, sending council and the city back to square one, looking more than a little worse for wear.
Shortly after Loren Reagan was identified as one of the principals in the hockey dorm project, rumblings could be heard over concerns with some of Reagan’s previous dealings. Those rumblings continued to grow louder until the financing for the sale fell through.
The decision to hand tourism services to the PBDG came as news to the Penticton Hospitality Association, the group with arguably the most at stake in the city’s tourism services and the one responsible for collecting more than $400,000 each year through the additional hotel room tax.
The PHA’s objections have now led to the disbanding of the fledgling group.
Both of these setbacks could prove to be little more than hiccups, with a new hockey dormitory and improved tourism services still a distinct possibility. However, the turbulence caused by these latest developments should give council reason to pause the next time they consider fast-tracking an issue.