Posted on 26 September 2012 by Keith Lacey
Trying to secure provincial funding to build huge catch basins to prevent future downtown flooding, getting more funding to hire additional police officers during the peak summer season and expanding the roadway near the bridge that separates the north and south parts of Osoyoos Lake are three items on the checklist of requests by members of town council attending the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference in Victoria this week.
Mayor Stu Wels and councillors Sue McKortoff, Michael Ryan, Mike Plante and C.J. Rhodes will be joining hundreds of municipal leaders from across the province for the annual conference, which kicked off Monday and continues until Friday.
The annual UCBM conference is the one opportunity each year where members of municipal councils across the province are guaranteed direct contact with the provincial ministers and members of cabinet who make key decisions on where provincial taxpayer dollars are spent, said Wells.
It’s also the opportunity for community leaders to voice their concerns about any key issues they feel are relevant and extremely important, he said.
“Members from our council will be meeting with five provincial ministers to discuss key issues and I will personally be meeting with three of them,” said Wells late last week as he prepared for the trip to the provincial capital and the annual conference.
“There will also be a mayor’s caucus meeting, which is another opportunity for mayors from across the province to talk to the power brokers in Victoria and let them know what our priorities are.”
Premier Christy Clark will wrap up the conference with a keynote address Friday at noon.
Because there are so many councillors and mayors who attend the annual conference, you don’t get a lot of time to speak directly with the ministers, but it’s better than not being able to meet at all, said Wells.
“You get to make your presentation to the various ministers and the top bureaucrats, but there is a 15-minute or so limit on those presentations, so you have to be prepared and know exactly what you want to say to get your message across,” he said.
Wells said he and members of council will be meeting with Mary Pollack, the province’s recently-named new Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, about a proposed expansion of the roadway near the bridge on Main Street in Osoyoos.
“We would like to see that bridge widened,” said Wells. “We want the north side of the bridge to be upgraded like the south side of the bridge was a few years ago.
“When there are a lot of people down there in the summer and there are kids and skateboards and all kinds of vehicular traffic, it makes for a very nervous situation. It has become a real safety issue.”
Wells said he and the Osoyoos team will also be talking to Shirley Bond, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General’s office, about accessing resort municipality funding that would allow the town to bring in more RCMP officers to help local officers during the peak tourist season.
“We’ll be looking for additional policing help as there is funding available to resort municipalities to deal with policing issues during the peak season,” said Wells.
Pat Bell, the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, will also meet Wells and local councillors to discuss the expansion of resort municipality hotel tax funding in this community.
“We want the province to take another look at the number of hotel rooms that qualify for resort municipality funding,” said Wells. “The figures used by the province come from a provincial tourist guide and not all of our hotel businesses and accommodators are included in that guide.
“If all the rooms we believe should be included in the funding formula are counted, it could make a difference of about $100,000 to our community.”
The province is also expected to announce $10 million in funding to expand Hwy. 97 near Princeton, which would have major ramifications to bringing more people to Osoyoos, so he’s excited to get more details about this initiative, said Wells.
McKortoff and Plante are currently serving their first terms on municipal council and there are numerous seminars and workshops that will be presented during the conference that are specifically designed for rookie councillors, he said.
“There will be so much information to glean for our two newest members of council,” he said.
Members of council are expected to discuss their observations and discussions with provincial leaders during next Monday’s regular meeting of town council.