Penticton councillor wades into waterfront issue

Gas tax revenue will be used to fund $1.2 million worth of improvements to city waterfront

Many people have questions about the waterfront proposals that are currently the subject of considerable discussion. These questions deserve straightforward answers.

How did this all start?

The provincial government gave the regional district a gas tax grant of $4 million last spring. The money is administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities and must be used for a capital environmental project. Penticton’s share is $1.2 million.

Why the lakeshore?

Last winter, a stakeholders’ visioning session, involving a wide cross section of the community, held that Penticton should focus on being a “vibrant lakeshore community.” To this end, city council made lakeshore improvement a strategic priority. Now, after obtaining UBCM approval, the $1.2 million gas tax grant can be spent on the lakeshore.

How did the options for the lakeshore get developed?

A committee was formed to look at ideas, and after collecting extensive feedback from the public, consultants and engineers, two options emerged. These two options were posted for the general public. The public reaction to these two proposals has been mostly negative. After hearing this feedback, city council directed the committee to develop two different options that take into account the public’s objections.

What are the new options?

Option 3 is a basic maintenance option. Under this option not much will change on the lakeshore, however, badly needed maintenance will be completed. Option 4 includes some enhancements, widening the walkway where possible and leveling the humps in Lakawana Park in order to restore it to a more usable picnic and playground area.

Do we have to spend the $1.2 million on the lakeshore?

Since the UBCM has already approved the funding, it would be problematic to change direction at this point.

Is there any other money available for funding lakeshore improvements?

The city has an annual budget for capital improvements that is used for roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure. Projects are identified annually during the budget process. If necessary, city council could decide to direct some of these capital improvement funds toward the lakeshore. Council could also decide to use a portion of a revenue stream like the West Bench water sale to help with funding.

Will my taxes go up?

Given the fact that there are significant revenue sources already available, there should be no need for a tax increase to fund these improvements.

Could we finance this project if an expensive option is chosen?

City council could borrow the money for this project because we have a good credit rating and interest rates are low right now. That would be a council decision, but given the city’s current debt load, I would not support that choice.

When will the decision be made?

Our lakeshore must be maintained. The gas tax money allows the city to consider enhancement options at the same time. The community visioning process and the city’s strategic planning have formulated the options. No decision has been made — and no decision will be made — until there has been an opportunity for more public consultation. Please attend the meeting on Oct. 17, at 5 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and join the discussion.

Garry Litke

 

Penticton councillor