Penticton channel cleanup to cost taxpayers $28,000

Three-way agreement proposed to maintain trail along Okanagan River

After nixing a $2 environmental levy, the Penticton Indian Band is now proposing a deal that would cost local taxpayers $28,000 a year to help maintain the trail alongside the Okanagan River channel.

The deal would see the City of Penticton, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and PIB split three ways the $42,000 annual cost to keep the trail in good repair, remove garbage and maintain toilets at Skaha Beach. The work would be performed by a PIB employee.

While the RDOS had been set to ratify the five-year agreement at its meeting Thursday, the matter was instead deferred at the request of Andrew Jakubeit, a director and current Penticton deputy mayor.

Jakubeit said staffers who negotiated the deal were on vacation and unable to explain elements of the agreement to city council.

He’s also concerned that because the city contributes roughly 40 per cent of the RDOS budget, Penticton could effectively be on the hook for more than a one-third share of the proposed maintenance contract.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes, also an RDOS director, took issue with his community being asked to contribute through the regional district to a Penticton attraction.

“I think this should be a partnership between the City of Penticton and PIB and perhaps some of the adjacent neighbours, but I don’t think it should be a partnership for the operation within the broader RDOS,” Hovanes said.

Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden, noted the RDOS in June signed a protocol agreement with local First Nations that committed the parties to work together on regional issues.

“We have to work out, in the spirit of the protocol agreement, the way to fund this, and we can’t procrastinate for another year,” Siddon said.

But he was skeptical about the stated cost of trail maintenance.

“I know the PIB says they’ve been spending $40,000 a year; I don’t see it,” Siddon said.

Helena Konanz, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, suggested the regional district supply summer students to keep the trail clean.

However, RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell said that’s not part of the deal with the band, which claims jurisdiction over the path.

“They’ve invited us to pay,” Newell said. “They have the staff.”

The matter is expected to be back before the RDOS board at its next meeting Aug. 15. Penticton city council meets next on Aug. 6, although the agreement is not yet on the agenda for that date.

Earlier this summer, PIB-owned Coyote Cruises announced it would charge a $2 environmental levy to each person who floated the channel from the company’s entry point on Riverside Drive.

After a public outcry, Coyote Cruises rescinded the levy and announced it would instead seek a deal with local governments.