After not having a contract since 2010, the City of Penticton and West Bench will soon have a new fire protection agreement.
The last fire protection agreement expired at the end of 2010. Since then, the agreement has been mutually extend by resolution, both by Penticton city council and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen until a new agreement was prepared.
The main delay to negotiating a new agreement, said city treasurer Doug Leahy, was taxation changes after the Penticton Indian Band was granted taxing jurisdiction over band lands in 2009. Fire protection services for those areas, which includes the Red Wing resort, will now be handled under a separate agreement.
Under the new agreement, the regional district will be cost sharing in all fire department costs; previously, fire education services were not included. Total costs of the fire department have also been modified to include depreciation on improvements and buildings, and the administration fee has increased from five to seven per cent.
The lone holdout was Coun. Helen Konanz, who voted against endorsing the new agreement. While she didn’t disagree with the terms, Konanz said that if West Bench wanted to use so many city services, the community should amalgamate with Penticton.
“They use every service that we have, basically. In every single way, they are a part of this community. They work here, they play here, they ride their bikes, they do everything here. It’s a waste of money, time, everything, to have that community separate from Penticton,” said Konanz. “I don’t think we should keep promoting separating services or renting out our services to them. They should just amalgamate with us and become part of our community.”
Leahy said negotiations have commenced with the PIB to create a second agreement to cover band-owned lands in the area.