Patrick Davies (left)

Patrick Davies (left)

Amalgamation not on candidates’ agenda

Vernon and Coldstream mayoralty candidates discuss amalgamation at Chamber of Commerce forum

There appears to be little desire to bring Greater Vernon’s jurisdictions under one roof.

Vernon and Coldstream mayoralty candidates were asked to take a stand on amalgamation during a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce forum at the Schubert Centre Wednesday.

“It would assist a lot in our governance structure,” said Wayne Lippert, Vernon’s incumbent mayor, adding, that the focus should be the electoral areas either joining the city or Coldstream and he isn’t convinced the municipalities should come together.

“We work very well and we have agreements in place for community policing, economic development and water.”

Rob Sawatzky, who is also running for Vernon mayor, says a change in governance can only occur if there is consent from all parties and the public is involved.

“Politicians in individual areas should not be pushing from within,” he said.

Patrick Davies, a Vernon candidate, says communications are key to any relationship with or without amalgamation.

“We have to make sure it’s not forced from Vernon on to Coldstream and vice versa,” he said.

Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick told the crowd of more than 150 people that the jurisdictions can align on common issues while maintaining individual identities.

“Kelowna had amalgamation with Rutland but not with  the water system. We’ve amalgamated services for efficiencies,” he said of the shared water utility.

Dave Hrabchuk, who is seeking the Coldstream mayor’s job, doesn’t want to force a governance change.

“It should be up to the people. It should be mutually agreeable. I’m not sure it’s necessary at this point,” he said.

The candidates were also asked what would be their big ticket spending items if elected to office.

“Our community has demonstrated a need for a sports facility. If people are willing to pay for it, I’d support it,” said Hrabchuk.

Garlick says his focus is improving infrastructure.

“Roads are important — keeping them to a standard so they don’t fail on us,” he said.

Davies says he will push for an airport runway extension to encourage people to live here.

“We need to open up Vernon as a bedroom community for the oil patch,” he said of flights to northern Alberta and B.C.

Lippert believes there is a need to continue with the city’s infrastructure strategy and any future cultural and sports facilities must go to referendum.

“It’s your tax dollars. We need to give you the opportunity (to decide on them).”

If elected, Sawatzky says his first priority will be an external audit of how the city operates, including staffing levels and spending activities.

“We need to know what the (financial) situation is before we commit to other things,” he said.