Central Okanagan West director wants to incorporate is the headline for the story on Infonews.ca a news oriented website out of Kelowna. The reporter and I had a good discussion on the issues in the electoral areas in specific Central Okanagan West. Just to clarify a couple of the comments including the headline, I am NOT in favour of incorporation and have never taken that position, ever. I am trying to fulfill a request by the North Westside Communities and their 700+ name petition to answer the single question placed before the RDCO Board two years ago; Is the North Westside financially capable of self governance?
This was the question brought forward by the North Westside Communities Association on behalf of the hundreds of residents they represent. It is a fair question and deserves and honest and complete answer which to date has not been addressed. The respectful response to the community would be RDCO Board support for a Provincially funded Governance Study with all cost associated with a move from an unincorporated electoral area to an incorporated municipality/town/village. These two governance structures are the only ones available under current legislation, we are incorporated or an unorganized electoral area.
Due to the level of dissatisfaction as expressed to myself by residents during two election campaigns, two town hall meetings, three RDCO Public Meetings and a Provincially funded Service Review (60% dissatisfied or very dissatisfied) over the last four years the North Westside deserves an answer. Once a Governance Study provides a cost analysis a proper discussion can begin at both in the Community level and at the RDCO Board Table to decide the next steps. Regardless of the data a Study provides, the final decision as to our Governance Model will be decided by a referendum of the residents in the affected area with a 50% +1 vote required to change models.
The single biggest and most expensive factor that impacts communities that wish to move forward with their Governance Model is roads. Roads are downloaded by the Province upon incorporation regardless of population. I checked it out over the last four years and found that every incorporation bid that failed all failed for the same reason, they could not afford their roads. We, in the North Westside, are fortunate as we have a very small road base with fairly high density for a rural area. Westside Road and Fintry Delta Road from Westside Road to the entrance of Fintry Park are and will always be Provincial Roads. The plus to owning our roads is more timely snow removal (same day as opposed to two or three days after snowfall), road and right of way maintenance are local issues not Provincial and therefore should be dealt with in a more timely manner.
Incorporation vs. status quo is an important financial decision that should not be made without current and accurate fact based data.
An Incorporation of both electoral areas into one Rural Municipality such as the Regional Municipality of the Rockies is another governance model available to us… but the other unorganized areas within RDCO are not as favourably positioned with roads as is the North Westside. The roads in the other areas (with the possible exception of Ellison) are longer and the density is less therefore making their roads more costly than ours but only a proper study will put real numbers to this part of the equation.
Now that all being said there is a move that could bring better access to the electoral area residents and that would be the formation of a separate Electoral Area Committee of the RDCO Board. This type of Committee is how most of the 26 other Regional Districts in BC separate the municipalities from the rural areas, even the Vancouver Regional District with one electoral area has a separate committee for the residents in the rural areas. This Committee would show a recognition by the Board that there are many issues that the two government structures (municipal & unincorporated) view from their different perspectives and realities. Both Director Bartyik from Central Okanagan East and myself support the formation of this Electoral Area Committee and would like to see the composition of the Committee at one representative from each of the four municipalities and the two EA Directors for a body of six. This would offer a platform for community input and delegations regarding services and functions within the electoral areas with RDCO Board Members that are there JUST for issues and concerns from Central Okanagan East & West. In the four years of the last term only ONE delegation from Central Okanagan West made it to the Board and that was the North Westside Communities Association and their request for a Governance Study more than two years ago still awaits a proper response. This Electoral Committee would also allow RDCO Staff and Administrators to deal with rural issues with and before the residents and their elected representatives. That’s what good government should look like.