Conservation fund inching closer for regional district

Everyone’s in the conservation ring except Osoyoos and the Similkameen.

Everyone’s in the conservation ring except Osoyoos and the Similkameen.

Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen directors voted to form a sub-regional conservation fund at the July 7 meeting.

The fund, if it makes it through the alternate approval process, would mean a tax increase of roughly $10 for the average home in the RDOS, raising about $450,000 each year for a variety of projects to be completed in the South Okanagan.

The issue of establishing the fund, which will be based on funds already working in the Kootenays, did raise concerns from some of whether directors should represent their home communities or the region as a whole while sitting at the RDOS table.

In June, Penticton and Osoyoos representatives of the RDOS said they would be voting with their respective council’s choice of not supporting the sub-regional conservation program. They were urged by fellow directors to return to their council and ask them to reconsider.

Penticton reversed its decision, but Osoyoos mayor Suzan McKortoff said her council wanted to consult with their own residents before joining the fund.

“From our point of view we’re following our legislative agenda. We would like to have public consultation on this,” she said.

Michael Brydon, director for Area F, and a strong proponent for the fund, encouraged everyone to think regionally.

“I don’t know when precisely the day was when it was decided everything needed to be taken back to council. No one here is saying it’s (the sub-regional fund) a bad idea. What’s really being picked up is that it’s a battle for control,” he said.

Both mayor of Penticton Andrew Jakubeit and mayor of Oliver Ron Hovanes stood up for directors decisions to confer and even take direction from their council.

“I’m not a one-man show,” Jakubeit said, while adding Penticton council had decided to go ahead with the fund.

Penticton’s contribution would represent about 40 per cent of the overall money collected.

Hovanes said he does take issues back to council and he follows their wishes.

“I am appointed to the board by my council… I think I have every right to go back to our council,” he said.

Peter Waterman, mayor of Summerland, said he also discusses issues with his council but on this they voted unanimously to support the formation of a sub-regional fund.

“I think we’re all in this basket together,” he said.

Osoyoos still has the opportunity to opt into the fund if the public wishes as it won’t take affect until 2017 after provincial approval.

The fund will raise about $2.2 million in its first five years for a variety conservation efforts and has the ability to leverage funds to receive $4.5 million in private donations and senior levels of government.