Utility Pole … on the beach?
UTILITY POLE … ON THE BEACH?
16-10-25 – In the last few years I have seen how indifferent and even malevolent the Regional District Administration can be toward the people, communities and taxpayers that they are supposedly here to “serve”.
The utility pole placed below the high water mark in the center of one of our five beach sites serving hundreds of residents in the North Westside area tells a story of a government that is indifferent to the wishes of its constituents. This is not about providing services to the residents it’s about a local government out of control and bent upon proving they are in charge. The Kelowna Daily Courier on August 25 saw the issue as “curious” and sent a photographer to document the scene then again on October 25 they gave it front page coverage . The Vernon Morning Star also did a news story on October 28 addressing the two denied Delegation Requests by the NWCA as well as an editorial October 28 recognizing our Governance concerns and issues and the need for change.
As the Elected Representative for this community I have received numerous complaints from the residents and beach users upset about this unsafe & unsightly utility pole on our beach site. I have requested through the Board and been waiting for months for a reply to that request for information and financial accountability for this project … still waiting.
The North Westside Communities Association has been fighting this battle since the pole went in and has received a less than warm welcome from RDCO Management. The documentation that follows traces their step to get “our” local government to just Do the Right Thing.
The North Westside Communities Association President Bob Andrews wrote the Regional Board Chair Gail Given on April 14 2016 is still; to date waiting for an answer addressing that letter.
At the outset the NWCA requested information on the pole installation decisions and how they were made as the pole was not placed where the NWCA had been told it would be … to no avail. When no transparency was forthcoming from our “local seat of government” a Freedom of Information Request was put to both the RDCO and the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO). MFLNRO is the Provincial Ministry responsible for permission and permitting of construction or outside impacts to an environmentally sensitive area such as our beach site.
The RDCO spent months and thousands of dollars in staff time (both their own and the Provincial Departments involved) fighting the Trespass Notice issued by MFLNRO in December of 2015. Upon reading the history of this pole as documented in the FOI’s the question that comes to mind is; Do we trust or even want people who conduct business with such an incredible lack of moral, ethical and professional integrity representing our community?
The full Freedom of Information Disclosure – MFLNRO is available for you to see and determine for yourself how your Regional District does business on your behalf. Also the rdco-foi-invoices paid by RDCO with our tax dollars to keep the pole in place on our beach. To date 16-10-24 the Chair has twice denied the NWCA requests to present this material to the full Board.
Following is the proposed NWCA Presentation the Board that the Chair refused to receive:
Good Evening Madam Chair & Board Members,
As you are aware the power pole and guy wire installed in the middle of one of our five small recreational beach sites below the high water mark has been the subject of much community consternation since its installment in January 2014. The pole was installed by the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) with no permits or approvals in place. In addition the pole was not installed where the North Westside Communities Association (NWCA) had been told it would be placed which resulted in our effort to have the pole relocated to its original planned location. The NWCA is in full support of our fire department and the fire boat; our issue is with the RDCO and their placement of the power pole which gives no consideration to our residents who use the beach.
The NWCA maintains that the interests of our communities’ residents have not been considered or adequately addressed. Regardless of the recent grant of tenure for the pole there is still the question of immoral, unethical and unprofessional action towards our residents, the environment and the many levels of employees of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO).
We have received our Freedom of Information (FOI) request package from the MFLNRO and are shocked and appalled at the content and we did not get full disclosure. The FOI document clearly demonstrates how the RDCO has been spending exorbitant tax dollars fighting not only our communities request but also the MFLNRO Order to relocate the power pole above the high water mark and off the beach site. We can only speculate on the information that was withheld and who or what public body would be “damaged” by its revelation. The NWCA feels there are several untruths/misrepresentations contained in the FOI package and we will be referring to that document during this presentation. We will also be referring to the FOI package we received from the RDCO which was considerably less informative. Our purpose is to once again request that the RDCO relocate the power pole to an appropriate location and act in the best interests of our residents and the environment.
1) Power pole installed in January 2014.
In response to community complaints the NWCA sends a letter to Dan Wildeman (RDCO Fire Services Manager) on April 30, 2014. (Pg.7 – MFLNRO FOI) We respectfully ask the RDCO to reconsider the placement of the pole for the safety and well-being of our residents. As we had not received a reply I called Dan a week later and was told “no” they would not be moving the pole.
The NWCA then sent the same letter on May 7, 2014 to our then RDCO area director, Jim Edgson, with a request that the item be placed on the agenda for the next RDCO Board meeting. This letter was answered by Chris Radford (RDCO – Director of Community Services) on May 8, 2014. (Pg.10 – MFLNRO FOI – This letter is illegible in the FOI package but I have attached a copy of the letter). In his response Radford states, “This is an electoral area issue and subsequently will not form part of the agenda package.”
He also says, “Staff has been in consultation with Director Edgson regarding the power pole…”
We note that although Radford claims that this is an electoral area issue our current RDCO Area Director, Wayne Carson, has never been consulted by staff on any issues pertaining to the power pole.
Radford then goes on to say that, “The pole was installed with all required approvals and permits.”
In fact the RDCO had no approvals or permits to install the power pole, guy wire and underground electrical works which eventually led to the Trespass Notice (Pgs.26-28 MFLNRO FOI) issued by Compliance and Enforcement Officer Don Lemp (NRO – MFLNRO) on Dec.17, 2015.
2) Cost to the taxpayers in the RDCO’s effort to gain tenure for the pole.
In the same letter from the NWCA as mentioned above (Pg.7 – MFLNRO FOI) the NWCA included a quote from Four Sons Electrical to relocate the pole to the original planned location. Four Sons were aware of the circumstances under which they provided their quote. Four Sons was one of three companies who bid on the job so they were familiar with the site and where the pole ought to have been placed. Their quote of $2021.25 did not include BC Hydro charges for disconnect & reconnect or the minimal excavating work. We had a resident who subcontracted with BC Hydro offer his services as well as a local contractor who offered his excavating services for no charge. Total cost to relocate the pole is $2021.25. (Quote is attached)
According to the FOI we received from the RDCO more than $6500.00 has been spent in an effort to gain tenure for the pole. (Invoices in RDCO FOI)
In addition to the $6500.00 in invoices there were countless hours of staff time involved from the RDCO and many MFLNRO offices which adds thousands of dollars.
It is our understanding that the RDCO has proposed a protective metal cover and rip rap to protect the pole from water/wave action which will most likely cost several more $1000.00’s as well as violating our beach site even further.
Very disturbing is the fact that the RDCO did not piecemeal the $6500.00 away, their first go to was to spend more than $5200.00 contracting Western Water Associates.
Even more disturbing is that Trina Koch (Western Water Associates – Biologist) “Advised Dan that they should relocate pole as requested by MFLNRO.” (Pg.24 – Don Lemp’s continuation report – Jan.13, 2016 – 1030hrs – MFLNRO FOI) Also in this same entry Trina Koch is recorded as saying she, “Prepared initial report to relocate pole but was given direction by Wildeman to do up report with measures so that they can keep the pole where it is.”
The RDCO elected to not comply with what was requested by the MFLNRO and instead directed Trina Koch to, “As per our telephone conversation today, please resubmit an amended proposal with the intend of validating the power pole in its current location.” (Email from Wildeman to Koch Pg.18 & pg.30 – MFLNRO – FOI)
The same information is in Patrick Tobin’s (Regional Manager – Thompson Okanagan, Compliance & Enforcement – MFLNRO) review of Trespass Notice dated Jan.22, 2016 in which he states that it is apparent to him that ” RDCO staff elected to engage their Qualified Environmental Professional in developing a plan to keep the pole at its current location.” (Pg.45 of FOI pkg. or Pg.10 of Tobin’s review – MFLNRO FOI)
3) Ron Fralick (RDCO – Planning Manager) takes over the file from Dan Wildeman.
Officer Lemp reiterates several key points for Fralick as to why the pole must be removed/relocated. Please refer to : (Pg.22 – Nov.25, 2015 – MFLNRO FOI)
Fralick contacts Patrick Tobin (MFLNRO – Regional Manager – Thompson/Okanagan) and “suggested that if we did not make this issue go away the complainants would be empowered to barrage us with complaint after complaint.” Mr. Fralick also “suggested that there was significant conflict between the Area Director for the Area and Mr. Wildeman and as a result Fralick had been assigned the file as Mr. Wildeman was to close to the issue.” (Pg.23 – Dec.1, 2015 – 0900hrs – Lemp’s continuation report – MFLNRO FOI)
In fact, Area Director Wayne Carson has had absolutely no contact whatsoever with Mr. Wildeman in the entire time he has been Area Director since he was elected in Nov. 2014.
Mr. Fralick is then recorded as saying, “That the current Area Director who was let go by RDCO as the Fire Chief of NWFD had an agenda to remove NW Fire Services.” (Pg.23 – Dec.2, 2015 – MFLNRO FOI)
We note that Mr. Fralick and the RDCO could be held liable for that statement as Director Carson was not “let go,” in fact he resigned, which is on the record.
The statement that he “had an agenda to remove NW fire services,” is absurd. In his 20 year tenure as Fire Chief, Director Carson initiated the FMR program, the firefighters society, built huge additions on the existing fire hall as well as getting the Shorts Creek Fire Hall built by community, acquired 2 new engine fire trucks through a referendum and parcel tax, acquired 2 new water tenders and acquired Canada’s first marine water supply – our fire boat. He also achieved an agreement with NORD to provide a higher level of training that was not available through RDCO. Through prudent management skills and the support of the resident taxpayers all of this was acquired without incurring any capital debt. These are just a few of his many accomplishments as Fire Chief of which he is very proud and for anyone to say that he is out to “remove NW Fire Services” is beyond ridiculous.
Mr. Fralick makes several other statements to Officer Lemp in this same entry. (Pg.23 – Dec.2, 2015 MFLNRO FOI) They are as follows :
- “THAT HE TALKED WITH THE RDCO PARKS DIRECTOR AND INDICATED THAT AS THE P/P WAS THERE NOW THAT IT WAS OKAY WITH PARKS.”MURRAY KOPP (RDCO – DIRECTOR OF PARKS) WAS NEVER CONSULTED PRIOR TO THE INSTALLATION OF THE POWER POLE. WE CAN ONLY SPECULATE ON WHAT MR. KOPP MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE AGREED WITH HAD HE BEEN CONSULTED. HOWEVER, THE INTERNAL MEMORANDUM MENTIONED IN THIS ENTRY AND DATED SEPT.12, 2012 WRITTEN BY MURRAY KOPP WHEN FORMER FIRE CHIEF WAYNE CARSON WAS IN THE PROCESS OF ACQUIRING PERMITS AND PERMISSIONS FOR THE BOATHOUSE STATES :”AS ADVISED IN OUR MEETING AND PREVIOUS DISCUSSION A PUBLIC SWIM AREA HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED SOUTH OF THE PROPOSED BOATHOUSE LOCATIONS AND PARK STAFF WOULD RECOMMEND THAT ALL FUTURE USE AND ACCESS OF THE WATER LOT AREA ADJACENT TO THE SWIM AREA BE CONDUCTED IN A MANNER AS TO NOT HAVE AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON RECREATIONAL USERS.” (THIS QUOTE IS ALSO REFERRED TO IN PATRICK TOBIN’S REQUEST FOR REVIEW OF TRESPASS NOTICE PG.37 OF MFLNRO FOI OR PG.2 OF TRESPASS REVIEW)
- “RDCO WOULD NOT BE REMOVING THE POLE AS IT WAS GOING TO BE EXPENSIVE.”
- “THEY WOULD NOT GET THE BUDGET TO RELOCATE THE POLE.”
- ” IS THERE NOT A FINE THEY COULD PAY?”
REALLY? WE BELIEVE WE HAVE COVERED THESE STATEMENTS IN #2 – COST TO TAXPAYERS
“OFFICER LEMP REITERATED THE REASON FROM THEIR LAST CONVERSATION AS TO WHY THE POLE NEEDED TO BE REMOVED.”
- RON FRALICK IS RECORDED AS STATING THAT, “THIS ISSUE IS VERY POLITICAL.” (PG.23 – DEC.2, 2015 MFLNRO – FOI). PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS QUOTE WAS NOT INCLUDED IN OUR ORIGINAL DRAFT PRESENTATION AS WE HAD NOT YET BEEN DENIED OUR DELEGATION REQUEST. AS WE HAVE NOW BEEN DENIED BY THE RDCO BOARD CHAIR BASED ON HER ALLEGATION THAT THIS IS AN “OPERATIONAL MATTER,” WE FEEL IT IS NECESSARY TO REFUTE THIS BY PROVIDING A QUOTE FROM RDCO SENIOR MANAGEMENT STATING THAT, “THIS ISSUE IS VERY POLITICAL.”
4) Chris Radford (RDCO – Director of Community Services) perplexed by Trespass Notice
Letter from Radford to Patrick Tobin (MFLNRO – Regional Manager – Thompson Okanagan Region) dated Jan.12, 2016 “disputing the process leading up to the issuance of the Trespass Notice (Pgs. 33-35 MFLNRO FOI)
Radford says, “There appear to be discrepancies with the direction provided by some Ministry staff and RDCO staff is very perplexed by the events that led to the Trespass Notice.”
Really? Would you have us believe that collectively, the educated minds at the RDCO were so confused that they could not grasp the concept of the events that led to the Trespass Notice despite the fact that they had been given ample opportunity/time to comply with a “gentlemen’s agreement,” which they preferred over being issued a trespass notice as evidenced in the quote below.
“Radford agreed that they had erred and would take appropriate measures to rectify the issue.”
He also said, “that they would prefer not to be given a legal order as this would not look good.”
(Pg.14 Lemp’s continuation report – MFLNRO FOI)
Dan Wildeman sent Don Lemp an email (Pg.16 – MFLNRO – FOI) in which he states, “Mr. Johnson did advise that we would be required to address the Section 9 issue as he feels the pole sits below the high water mark. Our mapping and survey show it is above but regardless it is close either way and we want to make this right.” Wildeman then says that he would like to meet and “find the most efficient and cost effective means to resolve this issue.”
In fact, the RDCO survey shows that the pole and guy wire are below the high water mark. (Pg. 3 of RDCO application for proposed works or page 41 of Western Water Associates section of FOI). RDCO survey also referred to in Tobin’s review (Pg. 2 – #6 FLNRO-FOI)
It is abundantly clear to us that Chris Radford, Dan Wildeman and Ron Fralick were aware of what was required and deliberately chose to not comply with the MFLNRO Order and the expressed wishes of this community. Instead they chose an alternate route at the taxpayers’ expense which was not the “most efficient and cost effective means to resolve this issue.”
In order to have a better understanding we urge you to read the MFLNRO FOI from cover to cover, in particular Patrick Tobin’s Review of Trespass Notice (Pgs.36-45 MFLNRO FOI) and Don Lemp’s Continuation report (Pgs.1-25 MFLNRO FOI). There are numerous entries in these documents that, in our opinion, leave no doubt that the RDCO was well aware of what was required and decided to feign confusion as a defense to acquire tenure for the power pole.
In closing the NWCA again requests that the power pole and guy wire be relocated to an appropriate location off the beach site and above the high water mark, in accordance with the MFLNRO Order and the expressed wishes of this community.
On Behalf of the NWCA Board of Directors
As well here is the utility pole issue from the perspective of the NWCA President Bob Andrews:
Power Pole and Guy Wire Installed on Beach Site
- JANUARY 2014: POWER POLE AND GUY WIRE INSTALLED IN INAPPROPRIATE LOCATION (BELOW HIGH WATER MARK) BY THE REGIONAL DISTRICT OF CENTRAL OKANAGAN (RDCO)
- NO PERMITS OR APPROVALS IN PLACE
- APRIL 2014: NORTH WESTSIDE COMMUNITIES ASSOCIATION (NWCA) REQUESTS POWER POLE TO BE RELOCATED TO AN APPROPRIATE LOCATION. NWCA PROVIDES QUOTE TO HAVE POWER POLE RELOCATED FOR THE COST OF $2,021.25
- APRIL 2014: RDCO RESPONDS THAT THE POLE WILL NOT BE RELOCATED
- MAY 2014: NWCA REQUESTS AREA DIRECTOR (PAST DIRECTOR JIM EDGSON) TO INCLUDE POWER POLE ON AGENDA FOR THE NEXT RDCO BOARD MEETING
- MAY 2014: RDCO DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY SERVICES RESPONDS: “THIS IS AN ELECTORAL AREA ISSUE AND SUBSEQUENTLY WILL NOT FORM PART OF THE AGENDA PACKAGE.” IN ADDITION: “THE POLE WAS INSTALLED WITH ALL REQUIRED APPROVALS AND PERMITS.” IN FACT, THE RDCO HAD NO APPROVALS OR PERMITS
- NOVEMBER 2015: RDCO PLANNING MANAGER’S RECORDED STATEMENT IN THE MINISTRY OF FORESTS, LANDS AND NATURAL RESOURCE OPERATIONS (MFLNRO) REPORT “SUGGESTED THAT IF WE DID NOT MAKE THIS ISSUE GO AWAY THE COMPLAINANTS WOULD BE EMPOWERED TO BARRAGE US WITH COMPLAINT AFTER COMPLAINT.”
- DECEMBER 2015: TRESPASS NOTICE ISSUED TO RDCO BY THE MFLNRO COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- JANUARY 2016: IN RECORDED STATEMENT IN THE MFLNRO REPORT – THAT WESTERN WATER ASSOCIATES (HIRED BY THE RDCO) ADVISED RDCO “THAT THEY SHOULD RELOCATE POLE AS REQUESTED BY MFLNRO.” RDCO INSTEAD DIRECTS WESTERN WATER ASSOCIATES TO PREPARE REPORT “VALIDATING THE POWER POLE IN ITS CURRENT LOCATION.”
- OVER $6,500.00 AND COUNTLESS HOURS OF STAFF TIME HAS BEEN SPENT IN AN EFFORT TO GAIN TENURE FOR THE POLE. IT IS OUR UNDERSTANDING THAT THE RDCO HAS PROPOSED A PROTECTIVE COVERING AND RIP RAP TO PROTECT THE POLE FROM WAVE/WATER ACTION WHICH WILL MOST LIKELY COST SEVERAL MORE $1000.00’S AS WELL AS VIOLATING OUR BEACH SITE EVEN FURTHER.
- JANUARY 2016: RDCO RESPONSE TO TRESPASS NOTICE: “THERE APPEAR TO BE DISCREPANCIES WITH THE DIRECTION PROVIDED BY SOME MINISTRY STAFF AND RDCO STAFF IS VERY PERPLEXED BY THE EVENTS THAT LED TO THE TRESPASS NOTICE.” (RDCO REQUESTS REVIEW)
- JANUARY 2016: MFLNRO REGIONAL MANAGER, COMPLIANCE & ENFORCEMENT – IN RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR REVIEW OF TRESPASS NOTICE STATES: “RDCO STAFF ELECTED TO ENGAGE THEIR QUALIFIED ENVIRONMENTAL PROFESSIONAL IN DEVELOPING A PLAN TO KEEP THE POLE AT ITS CURRENT LOCATION.”
- OCTOBER 2016: NWCA REQUESTS DELEGATION PRESENTATION TO THE RDCO BOARD TO HAVE THE POWER POLE RELOCATED TO AN APPROPRIATE LOCATION. BOARD CHAIR DENIES REQUEST.
- YOU TUBE VIDEO HTTPS://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/WATCH?V=THAI2ULN8OW
Here is the letter from the Community Services Director that was unreadable in the FOI Document stating that “The pole was installed with all required approvals and permits.” And this just wasn’t so:
Here is the CAO’s take on the issue:
Good Morning Director’s,
Further to yesterday’s Board Meeting attached please find background information pertaining to the installation of the Fire Boat House Power Pole.
As a general summary …
- THE POWER POLE SERVICES THE NWFD BOAT HOUSE. THIS HYDRO SERVICE IS NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN FUS ACCREDITATION OF THE FIRE BOAT THAT REDUCES HOME INSURANCE PREMIUMS FOR NEARBY RESIDENTS;
- A WELL-KNOWN CONTRACTOR WAS RETAINED TO INSTALL THE POWER POLE;
- ELECTRICAL PERMITS WERE OBTAINED;
- AFTER THE INSTALLATION OF THE POWER POLE FLNRO ADVISED THAT THE POLE WAS NOT IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE WATER ACT;
- RDCO STAFF WORKED WITH FLNRO AND MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT STAFF TO ADDRESS THE CONCERNS;
- AT THE MINISTRIES SUGGESTION A LEGAL SURVEY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT WAS COMPLETED;
- IN MARCH 2016 ALL OUTSTANDING ISSUES WITH THE MINISTRY WERE CONCLUDED WITH THE SIGNING OF A MODIFICATION AGREEMENT ATTACHED TO THIS EMAIL.
I would be pleased to answer any follow-up questions you may have.
Chief Administrative Officer
Here is an article in the November 1 Vernon Morning Star that reflects the Board Chairs perspective. Board Chair is in black and Admin comments are in red italics.
The Regional District of Central Okanagan insists it’s not ignoring North Westside concerns. Yet 2.5 years later the issue is still not being addressed that would certainly fit my definition of being ignored.
The North Westside Communities Association is upset that two requests to appear before the RDCO board to discuss a power pole on a beach have been denied.
However, Gail Given, board chairperson, says process is simply being followed.
“By definition, the prime role of the governing body, RDCO board is governance versus operations,” she said. The prime function of this Board from the Electoral Areas perspective is the provision of local Government for the unincorporated areas. Good governance would address the concerns of those residents in a transparent and honest fashion.
“Our prime focus must be on policy setting, strategic planning, and the budget setting. The board’s opportunity to provide guidance on individual services comes through our rotation of service reviews and through the budget setting process.” Service reviews are very costly and occur on a five year cycle and would NOT include the installation of a utility pole by one service (fire) in another service area (community parks). Again it would slip through the cracks as an “operational” matter. The Budget process is a joke, check the public record the Board just outvotes the EA Directors on matters such as this and buries the issue then buries the shovel. EA Governance problems were identified in the Board Strategic Plan in early 2015 yet NOTHING has been done to address this problem … where is the “focus” here!
Given added that operational matters are the primary role of staff and concerns from residents should be directed through staff. Where they are time and again ignored.
“They are the subject matter experts,” she said. Experts that put a utility pole in the middle of a recreational beach site … I don’t think so.
“As an alternative to a scheduled presentation, citizens do have the option to forward their concerns or presentations to individual board members. This current and historical practice is in support of clear roles and responsibilities.”
Given also says there is a lot before directors when they gather. The Municipal Directors are commonly heard complaining about the time Electoral Area issues take but rather than address the problem they continue to overpower by weight of vote or ignore the elected representative from the areas in question at the expense of the residents from those areas.
“Meetings are frequently running well past the scheduled times and occasionally items are being deferred to subsequent meetings due to time constraints,” she said.
The North Westside Communities Association says a power pole was installed in the wrong/inappropriate location at Killiney Beach Park and it wants the pole relocated.
However, RDCO staff have stated that the pole will remain in its current location. Thanks for listening … NOT.