- OES students tackle schoolyard dog poop problemPosted 5 days ago
- GMO foods dangerous, pervasive, former federal scientists tell forumPosted 5 days ago
- Former Stockwell Day assistant Neufeld will seek federal Conservative nominationPosted 5 days ago
- Christmas Lite-Up events feature Santa Parade and entertainmentPosted 5 days ago
- Vancouver pharmaceutical company applies for license to operate commercial medical pot facility in OsoyoosPosted 5 days ago
- School support staff prepared to walk picket lines starting Tuesday morningPosted 1 week ago
- Osoyoos stores open, close, move, change handsPosted 2 weeks ago
- Travel writer names Okanagan as world’s top wine destinationPosted 2 weeks ago
- Local leaders respond with caution to possible changes to modernize Agricultural Land CommissionPosted 2 weeks ago
RDOS board criticized for decision making local taxpayers help pay costs to maintain Penticton channel trail system
Making taxpayers from Osoyoos help pay the costs to maintain and upgrade the trail running alongside the Okanagan River channel in Penticton is wrong and could set a very dangerous precedent, say Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells and veteran councillor C. J. Rhodes,
During its last meeting two weeks ago, the board with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) voted in favour of a plan to have taxpayers from across the regional district, including small towns like Princeton and Osoyoos, share the $14,000 the RDOS has agreed to contribute annually to river trail maintenance.
The decision was made despite vocal protest from several representatives from outlying regions on the RDOS board.
During a meeting of Town of Osoyoos council two weeks ago, Rhodes, who was acting as deputy mayor while attending the latest RDOS meeting where this decision was approved, said he still can’t fathom how the majority of RDOS board members voted in favour of this proposal.
There are many Penticton residents who visit Osoyoos and use the various trail systems in this community and town council would never consider asking them to help pay for maintaining or upgrading this town’s trail system, said Rhodes.
“There was a decision that was made that was wrong and inappropriate,” said Rhodes.
There are tens of thousands of tourists from across the province and all over the world who visit Penticton every year and many of them participate in the ritual of floating down the Channel Parkway on inner tubes and floatable devices, said Rhodes.
The Penticton Indian Band (PIB) has traditionally paid for maintenance and upkeep of the adjacent trail located beside the channel parkway in the range of $40,000 per year, said Rhodes.
“They are the sole owners of this property,” he said.
The City of Penticton and the PIB reap tremendous rewards from tourists who use this facility and asking taxpayers from Osoyoos to pay maintenance costs of the trail system is wrong, said Rhodes.
“I think the decision … may have jaded the relationship” between regional representatives on the RDOS board and those who live in or around Penticton, said Rhodes.
In a press release released the day following the decision, the RDOS board announced it has pledged to partner with the City of Penticton and the PIB to support and maintain the Penticton Channel Trail.
“The Penticton Channel Trail is a critical portion of the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail system,” said RDOS board chair Mark Pendergraft, who is also the regional representative for Area A, which represents ratepayers in the rural area near Osoyoos. “It is a popular recreation opportunity for local residents and visitors to the community.”
Since 2009, the PIB has solely funded the maintenance of the trail between the dam at the north end of the channel and the parking lot at the south end.
The three-party agreement passed by the RDOS board will see the RDOS contribute $5,833 for the remainder of 2013 and $14,000 annually for the following five years to assist with the maintenance and enhancement of the trail.
The board had requested RDOS staff meet with their City of Penticton and PIB counterparts to establish maintenance standards prior to the agreement being signed.
The RDOS, as part of its commitment to improving client and stakeholder experience, is working to develop the KVR trail to link communities within the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, said the press release.
Rhodes said smaller communities like Osoyoos and Oliver have “worked very hard” to improve their own trail systems and would never consider asking the RDOS or taxpayers from other communities to help pay those costs.
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes, who is also an RDOS director, stated at the meeting that Penticton doesn’t get outside help with its other tourist draws.
“You’re not asking us all to participate in the maintenance of your beaches because they’re bringing hordes of people to the Okanagan,” said Hovanes. “You’re looking after those beaches by yourself because you respect and under the economic engine that it is.”
Despite the small amount of money being talked about, the RDOS decision is wrong because taxpayers in Area A near Osoyoos should not be paying a penny to upgrade a trail system in Penticton, said Rhodes.
“There is no policy in place and no historical documentation for this,” he said. “I think the RDOS has set a very troublesome precedent here.
“The RDOS may now be asked to get involved in all kinds of other projects.”
Wells said he couldn’t agree more with the objections made by Rhodes.
“It was just the wrong decision,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t have any serious repercussions.”
Wells said he supported a proposal by Rhodes to send an official letter from the Town of Osoyoos stating their opposition to this decision “to show our dissatisfaction.”
The current makeup of the RDOS board remains unfair and the voting process in this matter clearly supports this as the City of Penticton gets 18 out of 53 votes on all RDOS matters, while the Town of Osoyoos only gets two, despite the fact Area A taxpayers pay just under 10 per cent of the annual budget, said Wells.
“There are some things that need to be corrected … and this is one of them,” said Wells. “Some of these policies are older than the hills and have never been addressed. They should be.”