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Vernon-area RDNO candidates face off at forum

Incumbent Bob Fleming is challenged by Myles McGovern for Area B.
Candidates for areas B and C answered questions at the BX Fire Hall on Wednesday. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

Vernon Area Regional District B & C candidates faced off for the first time before the election Wednesday night.

The BX Firehall was packed for the Q&A. Amanda Shazko and Mike Randall squared off for Area C. Following the retirement of director Mike MacNabb, hopefuls for Area C are Mike Randall, a long-time local apiarist, and Amanda Shatzko, a creativity specialist and current president of the Arts Council of the North Okanagan who was recently recognized as one of the world’s top-40 young global cultural leaders.

Myles McGovern is challenging incumbent Bob Fleming for Area B. Fleming, a landscape business owner has served as area director since 2011 and current chair of the RDNO board. McGovern is a local entrepreneur with a background in computer and video technology.

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The biggest topics of the night revolved around land use and city boundary extensions. One of the initial questions was regarding BX Ranch land — their views about it and what they feel is the best use of the property.

One thing all candidates agreed on was its vast history — it’s the last remaining agricultural land from its original use in the BX — and the importance of keeping it, perhaps as community gardens land for young farmers.

From how to address home businesses who don’t require a license to protecting agricultural land and Swan Lake from being annexed from the city to proposed sewage treatment facilities, land use became the main topic of conversation throughout the forum. Most candidates took a similar stance but had various reasons and solutions for each issue.

“Either we grew up in this area or we chose to live in B or C because didn’t want to live in the city,” said Shazko. “In regards to annexation, we have the right to vote and it should go to referendum if we choose to do that. We chose to be separate so I believe that’s how it should remain.”

Randall, her opponent, agreed, taking the time to relate it back to other issues people face living outside the heart of Vernon.

“By restricting sewage and other services, they’re using this to entice people in and it’s really just cherrypicking by the city. The problem with becoming part of the city is the charges like sewage. You’re going to pay about 20 per cent more in taxes and we are lacking in some services — roads are one of them. The municipality has possession of the roads and does whatever it wants to do with them and the Ministry of Transport has the responsibility for our roads. We need to pressure them to deliver,” he said.

“For policing we have a police constable to look after B and C, Spallumcheen, parts of Armstrong and highway patrols. I believe in something called “same-day policing” instead of waiting a few days for police to finally come. Improving services will improve the viability of our area.”

Wastewater management and proposed treatment facilities was the topic of many questions throughout the night. Fleming took these opportunities to speak to his experience in office.

“We started a project called Swan lake Wastewater Recovery Project,” he said. “I commissioned a study — a water quality and land use study which confirmed the anecdotal evidence. Human waste was entering the lake and about 12- 15 per cent of a volume of what was entering the lake through contamination. This led to initiating the project and we jointly submitted an application to the government for funding. We hope to be successful with that and should find out through spring. The Indian Band will combine with us when they are ready. Locally between partners, we’d be funding about 11 per cent so hopefully, it will be a practical project for taxpayers. Those who get the service will be those who pay for it. We’re hopeful and we’ll see how it goes from there.”

“Everyone agrees we have a problem and there’s a definite need to address it,” agreed Fleming’s challenger.

However, McGovern challenged the initial solution, arguing more options need to be considered in case funding doesn’t go through.

“I read the study mentioned and the water contamination levels are far worse than the government allows but the question is: how do we fix the problem because it’s not new it’s been around for 30 years. The reality we don’t have the representatives in the provincial government. But what’s our plan B?” he asked. “No doubt go after free money but what happens if we don’t get it and I think it’s important to look at options.”

“It’s a win-win from my point of view and it’s good for the economy,” said Fleming in response. “I don’t think there are any other options and this is a great one. If we fail for the funding — it’s the persistent that win. We’ll get there.”

After the initial questions, people slowly began filtering out of the hall and questions were opened up the floor. The night concluded around 9:30 p.m. with all candidates voicing their individual support of the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre Referendum.

Constituents for both areas will cast their votes on Saturday, Oct. 20.

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Candidates for areas B and C answered questions at the BX Fire Hall on Wednesday. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star) The BX Firehall was full on Wednesday night — many stood along the walls and additional chairs needed to be added for people attending the Area B& C forum. (Brieanna Charlebois/ Morning Star).