January 01, 2016 - 9:00 PM
PENTICTON - From waterslides and casinos to bridges and tourism, a lot of controversial issues came to light in Penticton in 2015, and a lot of them will likely continue to lead the news in 2016.
Here's a look at some of the top stories to come out of Penticton in 2015.
SKAHA LAKE PARK
Nothing spelled controversy in Penticton in 2015 more than the word 'waterslides.'
A plan to revitalize the marina section of Skaha Lake Park, introduced to council early in 2015, resulted in one of the most polarized local issues of the year as lines were drawn, literally in the sand, over those who saw the public-private agreement to build waterslides in the park as economic progress and optimal use of public space that was under-utilized, and those who saw it as loss of public parkland for commercial development.
Several protests by both groups kept interest high right up until the first snowfall blanketed Penticton in December.
The Penticton Indian Band marked the beginning of a new economic era for the band with the completion of the Satikw Bridge across the Okanagan River Channel at Green Avenue.
Construction on the bridge began in January 2015, with the expectation the crossing will open up 150 acres of previously inaccessible locatee land for economic development.
Penticton Indian Band Development Corporation’s economic development consultant Chris Scott addressed comments circulating on social media, calling the project “the bridge to nowhere."
He said the project has been 20 years in the making, with the Penticton Indian Band seeking better access to the land. Scott noted infrastructure is at the heart of economic growth in any nation, city or region.
It was a long and disappointing ride for members of the Penmar Community Arts Society as they worked through 2015 to complete renovations and open up the former Penmar Theatre complex on Martin Street.
A last ditch effort to raise $190,000 through a Kickstarter campaign failed in December, resulting in an uncertain future for the project. The society remains determined and hopeful, however, they’ll find a way to continue as 2016 unfolds.
The City of Penticton faced a controversial year with respect to utility rates. The controversy began early in the year when budget discussions centred around rates paid by the city’s various customers for electricity.
A consultant’s study on the city utility rates concluded rates need to rise over the next five years in order for rates to equal the cost of service by 2020. No one can expect a break in rates, and the report further recommended rates be set annually as part of the city’s budget process.
A new location for the city’s casino became an imperative in 2015 when Penticton Lakeside Resort announced it would not be renewing the lease between Gateway Casinos & Entertainment’s Penticton Lakeside Casino and the resort hotel.
With a deadline of May 2017 looming, Gateway needed to find a suitable new location in order to stay on track for construction of a new facility to be complete by that date. The casino corporation was wooed by the city and the Penticton Indian Band Development Corporation, which vied for the casino to locate on some of it’s newly accessible property on the Okanagan River Channel, thanks to the completion of the Satikw Bridge.
In the end, the City of Penticton was awarded the casino with a joint announcement by Gateway and the city in early December of plans to build a new facility on South Okanagan Events Centre property at the corner of Highway 97 and Power Street.
A local hamburger franchise caused a minor sensation in the Okanagan River Channel in mid-August when it launched what it claimed to be the first ever 'float-thru'.
A&W Food Services set up a floating kiosk midway down the channel, offering up free burgers to channel floaters. The publicity stunt’s video was widely viewed on social media.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016