Referendums and a pellet plant have left some Coldstream residents fuming.
Approximately 50 people turned out for Thursday’s forum for the seven Coldstream council candidates at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
Work obligations kept candidate Glen Taylor from the forum as the O’Keefe Ranch general manager was scaring up support for the historic site.
Along with questions about rail trail support, GMOs, aging infrastructure, other referendums, Aberdeen Road safety and what the future of Coldstream looks like, the water referendum and pellet plant dominated the evening.
Aside from candidate Shane Hillman, who is a strident supporter of the plan, most of the candidates will be voting against the referendum.
Incumbent Peter McClean admittedly dodged an answer of how he will vote on the $70 million borrowing referendum Nov. 15.
“We do need to protect our community but at what cost?” said McClean, a 59-year-old husband of 34 years and father of three.
Coun. Gyula Kiss, a retired geneticist who has dedicated his life to studying water options, urges the public to attend a presentation Tuesday at Okanagan College on the subject at 7 p.m.
“I know that we need to have some improvements to the water system, however this is not the right plan.”
Incumbent Pat Cochrane, a Vernon business owner, is “annoyed with the whole process,” and disappointed Coldstream’s request for a peer review of the plan was shot down by the Regional District of North Okanagan.
“I think they are really underestimating how much our rates will go up,” said Cochrane.
Incumbent Doug Dirk, a retired telecommunications worker, says the referendum will send a message to the Interior Health Authority.
“It was not the cheapest plan.”
Lawyer Richard Enns, also an incumbent, says although the plan is being put forward by politicians who don’t even support it, their hand was forced by IHA to come up with some sort of plan.
“The referendum is the opportunity for the public in the community to tell the provincial government that the process is wrong.”
Taylor will not support the referendum, while Hillman urges residents to educate themselves.
“I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to have the best, safest, quality drinking water possible,” said Hillman, a 32-year-old stay-at-home dad.
Local air quality was another hot topic with the proposed pellet plant in Lavington, which will neighbour Tolko as well as the elementary school.
Hillman admits that as a father, it is very concerning, but, “from a business ideal from Tolko, it’s an ideal spot.”
Cochrane says the application has put pressure on Tolko, Coldstream’s largest taxpayer, to improve the current situation.
“The true issue is the existing air quality, a large portion of which is from the existing Tolko plant.”
Others, who voted against Pinnacle Pellet’s rezoning application, are also keen to see existing air quality improved.
“Unless the provincial standards are met, I don’t support it,” said Dirk, a Lavington resident.
Kiss said his vote reflected that of the hundreds of residents concerned.
“To me it’s representation. Most of the people who came worried about the health of their children.”
Enns says the pellet plant will only make the situation worse.
“The problem is you cannot improve the air shed by adding another pollutant.”
McClean stands by his decision to approve rezoning so that the pellet plant process can proceed.
“I was able to make a very, very, very tough decision. I believe that the decision is the correct decision.”
Mayor Jim Garlick, who took to the podium to also answer questions, assures residents that if the pellet plant proceeds, it will improve the existing situation.
“It is going to be with less emissions than we have today,” said Garlick, who also says he has a deal with IHA following the water referendum.
The next forum for Coldstream candidates is Thursday at the Women’s Institute Hall from 7 to 9 p.m., hosted by the Coldstream Ratepayers’ Association.