March 22, 2016 - 5:00 PM
MERGER OF IRRIGATION DISTRICTS ON WESTSIDE HAS PROVEN BENEFICIAL, SAYS MAYOR
CENTRAL OKANAGAN - While operators of Kelowna's irrigation districts await a mediators report on whether or not they should be forcefully joined, they might cast a glance across the lake to see what an amalgamated future might look like.
Until the Westside incorporated in 2007 as West Kelowna, water was provided similar to how Kelowna remains to this day: A collection of purveyors with varying service levels, age of infrastructure, taxes and their own employees and governments.
West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater watched them all unite under the West Kelowna government.
“There is life after death, so to speak, for trustees as well as employees,” Findlater says.
Two former irrigation district trustees, Carol Zanon and Rusty Ensign, now serve on West Kelowna council today.
While careful not to comment on Kelowna’s situation — the city is trying to take on and merge four irrigation districts — Findlater thinks the change on the Westside was clearly for the better.
“There is obviously opportunities for trustees to get into politics. That experience is valuable on a political resume.”
As for staff, Findlater says casualties were minimal.
“There were no jobs lost, except for two managers and an assistant and one of them was retiring anyway. All the others came into West Kelowna. They were operating the systems anyway, so it made sense.”
Findlater says most of the employees would have found the transition seamless.
“I would say from a career perspective it was very positive for them. They are now working for a much larger city, they can go work in other utilities, there is a career path for them.”
While the systems continue to operate independently, they are all under the governance of West Kelowna council, something Findlater says was made clear by the provincial government would happen during incorporation.
“It didn’t actually happen until 2010, but the intent was clear all along the irrigation districts would come in under the municipal district,” he adds.
West Kelowna is also working to integrate its water systems with a multi-year water master plan to improve water quality with the addition of some $150 million worth of infrastructure, including a new water treatment plant in Rose Valley.
Find more on Kelowna irrigation districts here.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016