Cost no issue for South Okanagan politicians seeking 'cost savings' - InfoNews

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Cost no issue for South Okanagan politicians seeking 'cost savings'

RDOS Directors Ron Obirek and Subrina Monteith received the regional district's board's approval to conduct a $82,500 needs assessment with the public regarding the RDOS community office in Okanagan Falls at yesterday's regular board meeting, Feb. 21, 2019.
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February 27, 2019 - 8:00 PM

PENTICTON - How do you know if rural residents really want an extra office of the regional district they already pay for? If you’re in the South Okanagan, you hire a consultant to do a 10-month, $82,500 study.

Two Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen directors voted to spend that much to figure out what to do with a satellite office in Okanagan Falls that’s been open for the past 11 years. Unsure of how best to use the office to meet the needs of the roughly 6,600 residents following some changes to the local government office, the directors opted for professional help.

If you’re doing the math, that’s a little over $12 per resident or roughly $40 per home.

Ron Obirek and Subrina Monteith, directors for Areas D and I said at a Feb. 21 meeting they wanted to get the study going as soon as possible — so fast they wouldn’t wait to put it to tender, preferring a direct contract to a consultant recommended by regional district staff.

The office has been used for various purposes since 2008, including economic development and other services specifically for residents in the area. But as a new area I was created last year, they found the office suffered from a lack of a mandate.

They say the goal of the study is to improve the quality of service to the community — and cost savings.

Obirek says the community service office has been functioning and "very active up to the present time” adding the office "has evolved over time, with its function and focus revised and fine tuned continuously for the past 11 years.”

Monteith said during her recent election campaign, residents expressed a desire for a community office in their own new electoral area.

She describes the Okanagan Falls office as “not necessarily operating as intended and being under-utilized."

Both directors say the cost of the study will be borne out of this year’s office budget, split 60-40 between the two rural areas.

Other regional board members were skeptical of the plan, even though they weren’t voting and their residents weren’t paying a dime.

“I think it’s an awful big expense for something where you don’t know what you want, but I will support my fellow directors,” Cawston Director George Bush said.

Obirek expressed some trepidation at hiring a consultant without due process, but noted a staff report called the candidate “well qualified,” with a doctorate in planning, and experience in needs assessment and public consultation.

“We have not met with the consultant, so we have blind trust in the competence of staff and their expertise, and that’s scary sometimes for directors,” he said.


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