If it ain’t broke, why fix it.
That’s the sentiment among members of the Coldstream Ratepayers Association, who are opposed to the idea of amalgamation.
More than 50 residents turned out to a public meeting Thursday to share their opposition to the idea of amalgamating Coldstream and Areas B and C into Vernon – an idea sparked by the Society for the Future Governance of Greater Vernon.
Since the society will be making its case to Coldstream council Monday, Thursday’s meeting gave local politicians (many of whom were in attendance and also spoke against amalgamation) an idea of where some of its residents stand.
“We’re looking for some feedback from the public on everybody’s thoughts, also what questions do you have,” said Mayor Jim Garlick, urging citizens to send letters and e-mails to council.
The society is asking the four levels of government to pursue a study looking into the feasibility of amalgamation.
But an overwhelming majority of those in attendance at Thursday’s meeting have asked council not to endorse a study, and the mayor agrees.
“We want to be cautious of ever agreeing to a study,” said Garlick.
Such a study could cost considerable money and staff time to conduct, he said.
“At this point I’m not convinced there’s enough potential to spend any amount of money on it,” said resident Hew Kidston, adding that while proponents of amalgamation say it would be more efficient, it would not necessarily be effective governance. Bigger is not necessarily better.”
Long-time resident Bill Kastelen says the ‘A’ word comes up every four or five years, and there have already been studies on the topic.
“A study in 1991 concluded taxes in Vernon would go down and taxes in Coldstream would go up,” said Kastelen.
Coun. Richard Enns went through the amalgamation process with property in the former Area A (Okanagan Landing) and doesn’t want to see Coldstream go down the same road.
“There has been no benefit whatsoever. It’s cost us money and forced us to hook up to a sewer line we didn’t need.”
The following demise of the Okanagan Landing Fire Department is another fear Coldstream residents have for their own volunteer fire departments if amalgamation took effect.
As a retired RCMP officer, Al Luelo has been stationed in communities that underwent amalgamation, and it was never good, he said.
“In the case of Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope, we were having people complain that they never see the police, they never see the plow trucks,” said Luelo, as he explained most services were dedicated to the larger centre of Chilliwack.
Enjoying his Coldstream home, land and lifestyle, Luelo questions why fix something that’s not broken.
“I don’t need a new Cadillac, I’m happy with my old pickup.”
Bob Weatherill agrees.
“If we become a small fish in a bigger pond, they won’t listen to us,” he said, also echoing many fears of losing the rural lifestyle of Coldstream.
Garlick also cautions that if amalgamation were to proceed, there may be no turning back.
“I think you have very good representation. To lose that, you’re not going to get it back.”