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No extra bylaw services but fencing going up around Penticton’s Gyro Park bandshell

Council shot down the mayor’s request for additional permanent bylaw officers
A design for the proposed fencing council approved on May 4. The fencing will go up around the Gyro Park bandshell because of drug paraphernalia and people sleeping on the stage. (City of Penticton)

The City of Penticton will not be getting more permanent bylaw officers this year, but it will be getting fencing around the Gyro bandshell.

Council voted 4-1 to stick with the status quo for bylaw, albeit with an addendum to allow for considering adding part-time staff if needed over the summer.

Mayor John Vassilaki had requested a report from staff on the possibility of expanding city bylaw’s hours to run from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., seven days a week.

The staff report found that it would cost the city an additional $679,500 for the necessary officers, and presented council with two options for paying for it, including expanding paid parking to the lakeshores or a general tax increase.

Coun. Katie Robinson led the opposition to the mayor’s request, particularly over the size of the request and the fact that it was coming outside of budget deliberations and lead to expanding paid parking.

“I feel very uncomfortable talking about this outside of budget deliberations and we did talk about it during deliberations and it was turned down,” said Robinson. “I think our community is parking overload at the moment, and even the mere suggestion of going further is not palatable to me.”

As part of the deliberations for 2021’s budget, Vassilaki had asked for consideration of two additional bylaw officers and an expansion of hours to 2 a.m.

Councillors Campbell Watt and Frank Regehr both offered their support for the status quo, while Coun. Judy Sentes was on the fence with keeping the status quo.

“We’re on the threshold of summer, and I don’t want to see us head through another summer with bylaw struggling to keep up,” said Sentes.

Sentes in the end voted to support an amended status quo motion, with an addition that would allow for adding extra staff if necessary.

As the originator of the request, Vassilaki wanted to see the additional officers added permanently, pointing to council’s other decision that day regarding the Gyro Park Bandshell as an example. He felt that if the public knows where the funds are going to a cause they support, such as improvements to safety, they would be willing to accept either higher taxation or more paid parking.

“Look at what we are and what we’re doing, and what we voted on today; we’re going to fence in our Gyro Park bandshell. We’re also gating up our passthrough on Main Street to the parking lot,” said Vassilaki.

Council voted unanimously to put up the temporary fencing around the bandshell, as well as referred the issue to committees to discuss further, more permanent options. The fencing is necessary to deal with undesirable activity at the bandshell, said the staff report.

“This is such a sad state where there’s just no respect given. I appreciate people’s circumstances, and homelessness is an awful thing, but they just have a lack of respect for the areas they think they have an entitlement to,” said Coun. Sentes.

The mayor echoed his fellow councillors disappointment in the measure, and took the opportunity to reiterate his issue with the provincial housing agency.

“It’s a shame that now we have to start gating all our facilities so they don’t get destroyed by those folks out. I just hope BC Housing is paying attention to the mess that they’re creating, not only in Penticton but across British Columbia,” he said.

According to staff, the fencing around the bandshell is expected to be installed as early as the weekend of May 8.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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