VIDEO: Healthcare and aquatic centre will be biggest issues facing council in 2018, says Mayor McKortoff, who plans to seek re-election

By on January 9, 2018

The two biggest issues that will engage town council in 2018 are healthcare and a proposed regional aquatic centre, Mayor Sue McKortoff said in a wide-ranging video interview with the Osoyoos Times.

McKortoff also confirmed she plans to seek re-election to another four-year term as mayor in the Oct. 20 municipal elections.

The mayor said the present five-member council has done a good job of listening to the people of Osoyoos and she said council has been very fiscally responsible.

She welcomes the recent announcement by federal and provincial governments and local First Nations that they are moving forward with a national park reserve in the South Okanagan, but she said there will need to be compromises.

And the town is continuing to seek a recount of the 2016 census which put the town’s population at more than 5,000 people, requiring local taxpayers to more than double what they pay for RCMP policing costs.

Meanwhile, talks are continuing with the provincial government and RCMP, she said, adding that one of the things Osoyoos wanted was a full complement of RCMP officers. With the recent appointment of Cpl. Dave Smith, that has now happened, she said.

There were no major surprises in McKortoff’s comments in the 13-minute video interview that can be viewed on OsoyoosTimes.com. But the mayor gave an overview of some of the key issues council has dealt with in 2017 and what it expects to face in 2018.

She didn’t hesitate to confirm she plans to run again as mayor.

“At this point I am healthy,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed this – the last three years. I’ve got good health, I’ve got the time, I’ve got the energy. It’s a huge learning curve and I’m still learning and wanting to do what’s best for the town. I’m a volunteer at heart and this is partly a volunteer activity. I would like to do it again.”

McKortoff said she can see both sides on a proposal to expand council by adding two councillors, but she expressed doubts.

“I’m not sure that it’s the best use of $50,000,” she said referring to the additional costs to remunerate and provide benefits to two new members. “I think there’s a lot of other things that we might use [the money for] in a better way.”

The argument in favour is that sometimes councillors are away, she said, adding that council will discuss the proposal at its meeting on Jan. 15.

On the healthcare issue, McKortoff noted that the town received $100,000 in provincial funding to look into the healthcare issues affecting Osoyoos and how they might be addressed.

She expects a meeting within the next two weeks involving some local doctors and other officials to discuss terms of reference for a study.

In the past year, some Osoyoos residents have expressed concerns about the shortage of family doctors, unreliable emergency service at South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver, lack of walk-in clinics and other concerns.

The proposal for an indoor aquatic centre is still in its infancy, but Osoyoos, Oliver, the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen announced recently they plan to work together to look at the feasibility of a regional facility serving residents of the South Okanagan.

McKortoff said the idea of an indoor public pool in Osoyoos was raised in the past before she was on council, but it didn’t make it to a referendum on whether local taxpayers wished to fund it.

“They realized that it was just going to be too expensive,” she said. “For a small town it’s a very expensive enterprise because it’s not only building the facility, but maintaining it.”

By working together in partnership, it becomes more practical, she suggested, adding that it will require study to determine if it is feasible and what it would cost.

McKortoff said she would like to see a pool complex with facilities such as hot tubs and she suggests it should be located between Oliver and Osoyoos so that it is accessible to everybody.

Asked about council’s biggest accomplishment in 2017, she listed several issues council dealt with, but concluded that it was council’s ability to listen.

“I think our biggest accomplishment is that we listened to people and we paid attention to what was needed in this town,” she said, citing the way council addressed the needs of people wanting a dog park as well as those wanting a baseball diamond.

“We tried to be very open minded,” she said.

The mayor also mentioned the grand opening of the new fire hall, the launch of an affordable near-market housing development, and council’s efforts to deal with floods as accomplishments.

Council has taken some criticisms on social media about its spending decisions, even though some of the most criticized projects – such as new highway signage – are not paid for by local taxpayers, but rather by the Resort Municipality Initiative, which is funded by hotel taxes to promote tourism.

McKortoff, however, defended council’s fiscal responsibility.

“I think we’re very responsible,” she said, noting that council has not had to borrow from the bank to fund ongoing operations.

“I think we are a model community,” she said. “I think we are very, very careful about spending our money. We look at things, we debate things, we figure out how can we best use the money that we have.”

She concluded by saying council will continue to listen to the people and to work hard to do what is best for residents of Osoyoos.

“This is the best place on earth to live,” McKortoff said.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *