Penticton rescue boat funding denied by RDOS

Directors were cutthroat during budget deliberations last week, cutting funding in grant-in-aid among other requests.

Penticton firefighters on Skaha Lake during a marine rescue in the summer.

Penticton firefighters on Skaha Lake during a marine rescue in the summer.

Directors were cutthroat during budget deliberations last week, cutting funding in grant-in-aid to one regional program completely and denying a funding request for a new rescue boat for Okanagan Lake.

“It is difficult to make those decisions. There is always groups needing money,” Karla Kozakevich, chair of the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen.

Read more: Marine rescue service asks for funding

After an in-depth discussion last Thursday the majority of directors voted against a $30,000 request from the Okanagan Similkameen Healthy Living Coalition.

Forming in 2012, the coalition was supported by partners RDOS, Interior Health, Penticton, School District 67, and the Penticton Indian Band.

The RDOS was its main funder.

When it formed, the goal of the coalition was to gather organizations and people throughout the region to come up with ideas to reduce the burden of chronic disease. The coalition has several community groups throughout the region.

“We felt that maybe they’re spinning their wheels. It was implied that either they received the $30,000 they requested or they would end up folding,” she said.

In 2016, the coalition received $12,000 in funding. The increase request for 2017 was aimed at helping to grow the coalition to incorporate more community groups and regional initatives.

Majority of directors also voted not to provide $80,000 to the Penticton fire department to pay the remaining portion needed to buy a new rescue boat for Okanagan Lake.

“This was a tough one,” Kozakevich said. “It was completely removed from the list. It’s a challenging cost to take on regionally because some of the areas aren’t serviced by this because it’s going to be on Okanagan Lake.”

Kozakevich referenced her area of Naramata and residents drive to buy a new rescue boat several years ago.

“Naramata is a community of about 1,500 people and they fundraised and bought a new boat for $47,000. It’s a pretty decent boat, not the same as what Penticton is buying, but a decent boat. They didn’t ask for Penticton or Summerland to contribute,” she said.

Fire chief Larry Watkinson said previously that without funding there will not be a Penticton boat on Okanagan Lake this upcoming season as the previous boat is beyond repair.

A capital plan to replace marine rescue equipment was started in 2013 spurred on by a service club pledging to give the organization $200,000 and the City of Penticton providing $40,000.

The service club eventually withdrew its portion completely resulting in the City of Penticton increasing its funding to $150,000.

Kozakevich said talks are underway between staff, the fire department and area municipalities to find a different solution for the financial shortfall.

Groups successful in their grant-in-aid requests were The Meadowlark Festival, $7,500; Agur Lake Camp, $8,017; and the Community Foundation Okanagan Similkameen, $10,000.