School, policing issues raised at UBCM

School funding and rural policing were top of the list for the regional district at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities this week.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen

School funding and rural policing were top of the list for the regional district at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities this week.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen expressed concern about the process used over the last year for the potential closing of four schools in the area.

“While we understand and respect the role of the school board, the regional district believes that schools also have an economic and social sustainability factor that should require that the local government be included in the discussion,” the RDOS board said in a press release.

Mark Pendergraft, board chair, reported that the Minister of Education advised that the province is working diligently to improve the process prior to the end of the two-year reprieve for West Bench, Trout Creek and Osoyoos schools that had been identified for closure in 2016 and that the RDOS suggestions would be taken into consideration.

At previous UBCM conferences the RDOS expressed a need for additional rural policing as they fall under the provincial policing contract and the province has not increased resources for several years.

There are eight officers for the eight electoral areas in the South Okanagan-Similkameen while many of those districts are facing growth. This includes the new correctional facility and additional administrative duties for RCMP officers.

The RDOS said they made the case at UBCM to the Solicitor General and were advised the effect on the South Okanagan Correctional Facility will be watched closely and that “other options to address policing concerns” will be identified.

With increasing pressure to consult First Nations on development and land use applications on private or community lands, the RDOS asked the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to consider establishing a provincial position on First Nation referrals to gain consistency across the province and provide support for local government in negotiating any agreements that may be required.

The RDOS had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Health to discuss several areas of interest to the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

The continual issues with Sage Mesa Water System was brought up. The system is privately held, but was seized by Interior Health Authority because of “poor management.” The province has contracted with the RDOS to manage and operate the service on their behalf. IHA currently has a order against the owner of the system due to the rapidly deteriorating infrastructure which causes continual boil water notices. The RDOS reported to the Minister of Health that IHA seems reluctant to pull the trigger on enforcement and the problem continues to exacerbate.

Other topics the RDOS touched on were youth mental health programming and planning for an ageing population.