Crown Land grants, roads maintenance, a second crossing over Okanagan Lake and new approaches to federal gas tax funding distribution were the topics of West Kelowna Council’s scheduled meetings Tuesday, September 17 with provincial government representatives at the Union of BC Municipalities convention. Mayor Doug Findlater says West Kelowna Council was able to raise key concerns during their face-to-face meetings with BC cabinet ministers and representatives in Vancouver, BC.
West Kelowna met with:
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to discuss the District’s interest in securing tenure through a License of Occupation and Free Sponsored Crown Grant for 2515 Bartley Road for municipal yard purposes. The District has received sponsorship from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development for this application and is awaiting word from Hon. Thompson’s ministry on the status of the application.
“We were told that progress is being made on our file and that we are very close,” says Mayor Findlater. “The Bartley Road property would be a significant benefit to West Kelowna. We’ve been told by the Province since 2006 that acquisition of Crown Lands for municipal purposes would be supported.”
Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to discuss roads maintenance and bridge deficiencies discovered by the District when it took over roads and bridge maintenance services for the municipality at the end of 2012. Previously, the Province of BC was responsible for maintaining the community’s roads and bridges. The District conducted an assessment of its roads in bridges in the months leading up to the transfer of responsibility and found an estimated $467,000 in repairs needed. A further inspection conducted jointly with the Ministry of Transportation and infrastructure found $1.2 million in repairs needed. Required bridge repair work is valued at $237,000.
“We certainly heard that the ministry is amenable to some kind of settlement on this issue. We are asking that either we be financially compensated for the needed roadwork, or it be completed by a provincial contractor,” says Mayor Findlater. “We’ve been advised that we will receive an answer in October.”
Minister Stone also raised the topic of a second crossing over Okanagan Lake.
“I fully expected Minister Stone to raise this issue, we’ve been hearing about this in the news lately from Premier Christy Clark,” says Mayor Findlater. “We advised Minister Stone that West Kelowna will certainly be at the table when discussions begin. There are varied implications for West Kelowna with a second crossing that we will have to look at.”
BC Hydro Representatives to discuss the District’s ongoing interest in BC Hydro providing an additional, secondary electrical transmission line to the municipality to ensure service. Currently, only a single transmission line provides power to the Westbank station, which provides service to a community of approximately 30,892 people as well as approximately 9,000 residents living on Westbank First Nation land. West Kelowna is the largest community in BC that is supplied by a single line. Over the years, the community has experienced a number of significant power outages. A secondary transmission line is a priority to ensure future growth can be maintained and supported and to provide our existing population a secure power source.
“Although we were told that construction of a second transmission line is even more remote than before, they appear to have done some work in an effort to protect our service,” says Mayor Findlater. “They conducted wildfire mitigation along the line and replaced older infrastructure, so we are less likely to experience interruption due to forest fire or failing equipment.”
Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to discuss the District’s interest in changes to the Canada-BC UBCM Gas Tax Distribution formula to provide funds directly to local governments.
“We believe that providing the funding on a per capita basis directly to municipalities would allow individual areas to pursue projects of local importance while still meeting the spirit and requirements of the fund,” says Mayor Findlater. “This was an information sharing session with Minister Oakes and, I’m sure, there will be more discussion amongst her ministry, the federal government and UBCM about this.”
If the per capita basis funding model is not accepted, West Kelowna requests to be moved to a Tier 1 funding model which allows 75% of funding for municipal level projects and 25% for regionally significant projects.
Mayor Findlater said that this year’s meetings with Ministers and representatives at UBCM, as well as workshops and seminars are proving to be extremely valuable. Mayor Findlater attended the following sessions:
- UBCM workshop regarding First Nation Issues.
- Seminar with representatives from the federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on proposed changes to the federal Addition to Reserve process, to which West Kelowna is preparing a response as it remains concerned that municipalities need to be meaningfully consulted early in the process.
- BC Mayor’s Caucus which included a discussion on the rights and responsibilities of mayors and information from Emergency Management BC and the Justice Institute of BC on the importance of emergency preparedness.
This week, West Kelowna Council is scheduled to meet with Terry Lake, Minister of Health, Premier Christy Clark and John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.