Penticton chief sees reason for optimism
Chief John Kruger wants to wish everyone a happy new year. He’s certainly expecting one for the Penticton Indian Band.
“I think the new year is going to bring a lot of good things,” he said, listing off items like ongoing work on the deal to build a fish hatchery and a new health services building for the band, to be built near the Outma School.
The health services building, which will be built in conjunction with Health Canada and the Penticton Indian Band, will have space for medical and dental offices as well as educational facilities.
“We are going to have a business side and a community side,” said Kruger.
The community side will have space for drug and alcohol addictions counselling and teaching band members helpful skills like canning food.
“We are doing amazing things. And we are going to continue doing that. With a new facility like the health building, it’s going to be really exciting for the community,” he said.
On the economic side of the coin, Kruger said the band is forging ahead with its plans to create new opportunities for growth, including the recently announced Arrowleaf residential development and getting closer to a bridge over the channel at Green Road.
“We have an agreement that we just signed. We should be processing the final documents through the Christmas holidays,” said Kruger of the planned bridge, which would increase access to band lands east of the airport.
“Hoping that, again, in this new year, we are going to start seeing shovels in the ground and actual dirt moving. That will benefit the locatees, it will benefit the band, it will benefit the City of Penticton, the South Okanagan region and the province.”
However, keeping the economic ball rolling is going to require a lot of attention, according to Kruger. While developers are still optimistic, he said, the band needs to be moving fast.
“It is going to be a very challenging next four years. Again, we have to keep this momentum going. Our community expects nothing less,” said Kruger. “It is going to be some challenging times, but I am sure we are going to be very progressive.”
Kruger, who will be heading into the new year in his second term as chief and with a new council, said they will have to work hard to match the work done in the previous four years.
“I think we have done more in the last four years than ever. With a brand new school, 21-lot subdivision, day care … it was close to $16 million of projects,” said Kruger. “Our community gave this new council a strong mandate to continue working hard. I expect this new council to continue this momentum that we have built. We have another $16 million of projects that we need to get completed in this next four years. We can’t afford to slow down.”
Kruger goes back to vegetables as topping his list of the band’s achievements in 2012.
“My personal favourite goes back to what we are doing in our community and that is the community garden. It has really sparked a lot of good feelings in our community. It is bringing a lot of our families together and our elders really like that,” said Kruger, adding that the band collected some 12,000 pounds of vegetables for distribution from the three-acre garden.
“I think it is really promoting a lot of health in our community. Sure there have been the big things, like economic development, but my personal favourite is the community garden,” he continued. “They have some pretty good plans, they want to do greenhouses. They are really excited and pumped and we want to encourage them on that.”