If all goes according to plan directors will need to make room around the horseshoe for a new elected official at the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen.
Directors voted Thursday at a regular board meeting to create a new electoral area in the current boundary of Area D, which currently encompasses the communities of Okanagan Falls, Kaleden, Twin Lakes, Marron Valley and Apex.
Area D will roughly be split in half using the traditional sub-boundaries of Area D1(Kaleden/St. Andrews by the Lake, Twin Lakes, Apex) and D2 (Upper Carmi, Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands, Skaha Estates, NE Vaseux Lake, Okanagan Falls).
Out of the eight electoral areas, Area D has the highest population with 5,717 based on the 2011 census data.
Veteran politician and current Area D director Tom Siddon threw his complete support behind the idea of creating a new electoral area.
“I really think for the directors (in Area D) this will be a beneficial move and for the whole board,” Siddon said.
Although Siddon never complains about his workload, he was adamant that having another voice at the table for constituents in Area D1 and Area D2 was important.
If approved by the province, the hope is the new boundary will be in place prior to the 2018 election.
Siddon was encouraged at the Union of BC Municipalities conference last week when Premier Christy Clark called a special meeting with RDOS to talk about adding another electoral area.
The only RDOS director opposed to the new boundary was Helena Konanz from the City of Penticton who passionately expressed her opinion that the board was currently large enough at 18 members.
“I think one more person sitting at the table is really going to make it difficult,” she said.
Her suggestion was to undertake a region-wide governance study to see if the area boundaries could be adjusted so another electoral area didn’t have to be added.
Many directors responded with comments about how well the group works together and adding their support for another director’s position including Area E (Naramata) director, Karla Kozakevich who also sits on the Okanagan Regional Board.
“I don’t think adding another director will be a problem. I’m a part of the (Okanagan Regional Library) and there are 24 politicians on that board and we work well together and are able to accomplish a lot.”
Bill Newell, CAO of RDOS said even with adding another director position the board would not be the largest of its type in the province.
“It’s really about the citizens and if they feel they want to be represented in a different way,” he said.
Several challenges have been identified in creating a new electoral area including fire services, roads, policing, bylaw enforcement, committees and |commissions.
Staff is currently working its way through solutions.
There are financial implications including the cost of the salary for another elected official.
The decision to create the new electoral boundary stems from information collected during the Area D Governance Study.
The goal of the 18-month study was to collect public input regarding issues of greatest concern for Area D residents and how they see future governance and services.
Early in the process the consultants developed a public engagement strategy that included a webpage, surveys, newsletters, three governance forums and a summary of community input/survey results for the public
Community champions were appointed for each area. The champions delivered fact sheets, made contacts and acted as a sounding board for any questions or comments from citizens.