Although he left regional politics seven years ago wanting to take his phone and “kick it into Skaha Lake,” 80-year-old Bill Schwarz said he’s rejuvenated and ready to jump back in the role of director for Area D.
“I’m ready to turn it back on. As a matter of fact, I am talking to you from a smartphone now,” he said with a laugh.
Schwarz, who’s lived in Okanagan Falls since 1999, was Area D director for nine years, leaving in 2011.
During that tenure he was part of projects including developing a fire protection plan for Apex, the Christie Park acquisition, Keogan sports park, an economic development office, curb side pickup, a new wastewater treatment plant, a walkway around Skaha Lake, fire inspection to commercial businesses and beautification committee.
He said the main reason he left municipal politics was because he felt “burned out,” attributing a large portion of that feeling to the sheer size of Area D at the time.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen received provincial approval in May of this year to split the area. The smaller Area D will include communities on the east side of Skaha Lake (Okanagan Falls, Skaha Estates, Heritage Hills, Upper Carmi and Vaseux Lake). And new Area I will include communities on the west side of the lake (Kaleden, Twin Lakes, St. Andrews, Marron Valley and Apex).
“Now it’s down to a reasonable size,” he said.
Schwarz said his number one job, if elected, will be to put the budget under a magnifying glass and find savings.
‘It’s a smaller area, so it’s a smaller budget to look through. If it can be managed properly, I hope we can have a reduction in taxes the next year.”
Another top priority would be to look into having a marina built in the southern part of Skaha Lake, ensuring more affordable housing is built, and selling a home that was purchased to get public access to the Skaha Lake shoreline in Okanagan Falls.
“The purpose of buying the house was to get the shoreline. Now, that they have the shoreline they should get rid of the house, sell it to a developer,” he said.
There’s at least two issues Schwarz said he holds an opposite opinion than current Area D director Tom Siddon – a cannabis production facility in Okanagan Falls and the Kaleden, Skaha Estates sewer extension.
Siddon has publicly said he has no plans to run in the upcoming election this October.
“Whether I agree with marijuana or not, I don’t think it’s the public authority’s position to stop it. It’s a legal business now. I would want to ensure there was no smell or sound that emanates from there that disturbs the people,” he said.
Schwarz said the sewer extension project is ahead of its time. He noted the burden on taxpayers is high and more grant funding needs to be secured before the project can move forward.
“I guess I would have not have gone down the road the present director went down with it. I would have sat back and waited and said there is not enough money so lets wait. It’s going to happen at some point but the funding needs to be there,” he said.
The official nomination period for the upcoming municipal election takes place between Sept. 4 to 14 with general voting day scheduled for Oct. 20.