Penticton chief expects projects to bring boost

Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger foresees completing and moving ahead with several projects

Looking forward to 2012, Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger foresees completing and moving ahead with several projects the band already has in the works

One of the first is the announcement about the location for the new provincial prison. Out of all the bids still competing for the prison, Kruger said the PIB has the best site.

“That would be something great for the new year if the Penticton Indian Band got the new correctional facility. It’s the best location. It’s not super far away like the OIB. It’s close to the Penticton Courthouse and maybe the workers can use the airport in the City of Penticton,” he said. “It just seems to be a really logical place to have it, but we’re waiting for a decision.”

Kruger also expects to focus on preparing for their Arrowleaf golf course development.

“We are hoping to break ground in 2013, but we’re getting a lot of the legwork done this year,” he said. Coming much sooner, however, will be the long-awaited fish hatchery, which should have a ground-breaking in May.

Over the past couple of years, the PIB has been pushing hard for a new bridge at Green Avenue, which Kruger said would open up economic possibilities for both the band and the entire region.

“I think this year we are going to see some big things happening there. We have developed a really good working relationship with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure,” said Kruger, adding that the bridge is one of his main economic development priorities for 2012.

“It is going to generate a lot of jobs and it is going to generate a bigger tax base for the Penticton Indian Band,” said Kruger. “It is going to be good for the South Okanagan.”

The PIB will also be the subject of a project in co-operation with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, one of the first pilot projects in Canada for economic development land use planning.

“It will be a three-year project, but we’re just finishing up our comprehensive community plan, which went very well,” said Kruger. “This is going to involve the band, and we are hoping the locatees (private land owners) are going to jump on board. We want to find out from the locatees want to do with development. We want to find out from the band members what areas we should develop and what areas we should protect.”

In tandem with the pilot project, Kruger hopes to strengthen ties with neighbouring communities and the Regional District of the South Okanagan.

“We are probably going to work with the regional district in some areas. If we can develop this plan together, rather than taking positions, I think we can develop a very sustainable plan for economic development for community needs,” Kruger said, listing those needs as health and education, putting more money towards youth and elder programs and topping up the programs that are very underfunded.

Kruger would also like to see the regional district finally sign the protocol agreement that has been on the table for the past couple of years, as well as developing similar agreements with other communities, like Summerland.

“We have a really good relationship, but I would like to cement that relationship with a protocol like the one we have with Penticton,” said Kruger. If Summerland should be selected as the site for the correctional facility, he continued, the PIB has a commonage claim interest there that he would like to work on, for the benefit of both communities.

“I am confident that we can do some great things, together with neighbouring municipalities,” said Kruger.