“This has been a learning process for all of us,” stated Recreation Coordinator Nadine McEwen. “We have been working with the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen to compile the answers we have to have for our information packages and as more information comes in and facts are clarified we have been including them. I wish the process was faster, but if people want accuracy, we need to keep plugging away at the questions and details methodically to get clear answers…that takes time.”
“We are in process of printing off the third revised version of the Aquatic Centre information packet and we are getting close to having a final product very soon,” added McEwen. “A lot of our time has been spent waiting for answers from the regional district. It all takes time and that has been our biggest enemy. Soon version number three will be out and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another one after that.”
Some Princeton residents have felt confused by the changes and left out of the process, but that has never been the intent of the committee. While the volunteer-based committee has been compiling information for the public, they have also been busy in the community. Members of the Aquatic Centre Committee have held information sessions throughout the past six weeks. The group walked in the July long weekend parade, set up an information booth at the Racing Days activities at Sunflower Downs, wandered around with their distinctive t-shirts on at the A&W Show and Shine ready to talk and answer questions, held the first public meeting with more to follow, and set up another information booth at Tulameen Days near the entrance to the beer gardens. Aquatic Centre Committee members Charles Weber, Lyle Thomas, Tanya ter Keurs and Nadine McEwen were at Tulameen Days. “We weren’t sure what kind of reception we would get out there,” stated Weber, “but things went very well. The people we talked with were interested in getting the facts and talking about the details of the referendum.”
“We handed out about 70 information packages,” added McEwen “and had a lot of local support and a couple of different non-resident people come up to us and offered their support. One lady who has a place in Tulameen who lives in the Lower Mainland travels to the pool in either Merritt or Penticton while she is here for health reasons and was really supportive and encouraging of our efforts. We heard some really touching personal stories and had a good day out there.”
Last week a new twist was added to the referendum vote. Area H Regional Director Brad Hope came to the regular bi-weekly regional district meeting with a request to separate the Area H vote from the municipal vote. This motion was approved after a lengthy discussion between the regional board members including Mayor Randy McLean. Some Princeton residents and Aquatic Committee members were allowed to speak before the board took a vote.
Originally, the Aquatic Centre Committee had been planning for both Area H and the town residents to vote under one umbrella, as one community with a “we’re all in this together motto,” but Hope pushed for a separate vote because of the large number of rural parcels who will be affected by the potential loan and tax increase at the request of some of his constituents. On top of this request, Regional Director Hope had asked the Aquatic Centre Committee to find him a second opinion on the financial end of the Aquatic Centre comparisons used in the financial estimates for the operating expenses figures. Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton recommended Penticton Facilities Manager Dave Lieskovsky to review the Aquatic Centre consultants work. Lieskovsky stated, “You have an extremely experienced and respected consultant on board with Bill Webster. He is likely the best in all of B.C..”
“I have had people in the community asking me about a grant from the last time there was a referendum that was supposedly spent. This is not possible,” said Aquatic Centre member Dierra Maynard. “It is not possible to get a grant on an idea, but rather a difficult and complicated process. To acquire grants, there must be a concrete project waiting for funding. Even if a grant was sitting in wait for a referendum to pass (which I doubt would ever happen). It would never be released if the referendum failed. Rumours are a hard thing to squash sometimes, but the committee has been working hard to get all the facts and figures laid out on the table and I hope that the public will use their voice wisely and find out the truth first before casting their vote. There are two more public meetings coming up and lots of other opportunities for questions.”