Vernon’s mayor is being accused of fuelling disputes with neighbouring jurisdictions.
Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor, says he is increasingly frustrated with Wayne Lippert over the future of water and parks and recreation.
“The main instigator of virtually every service review or the instigator of disruption (at meetings) is Wayne Lippert,” Garlick told The Morning Star. “I don’t believe anyone can get along with Wayne Lippert. We’ve seen that with fire dispatch at the regional district.”
Garlick is particularly upset with comments Lippert made about Coldstream not supporting Vernon withdrawing from water distribution.
“It just shows they can’t hold to an agreement, so if you can’t hold to an agreement with someone, what kind of partnership can you expect to have?” Lippert told Kiss FM.
Garlick says his municipality has been consistent about keeping the water utility intact and has been part of the negotiation process.
“Wayne Lippert has a way of turning everything into a fight,” he said.
Garlick claims the ongoing disputes may be Lippert’s way of encouraging amalgamation of Greater Vernon’s jurisdictions.
“That’s his main goal. I don’t think it’s the City of Vernon, it’s Wayne Lippert. He wants to bring the Ontario amalgamation model here,” said Garlick.
Lippert denies he is forcing amalgamation.
“Amalgamation will happen eventually if it’s something citizens want,” he said.
Lippert also challenges Garlick’s comments that he is difficult to deal with at meetings.
“I’m there to look for benefits for everyone and to find solutions. I’m in politics but I hate politics,” he said.
Lippert stands by his concerns about Coldstream’s handling of the water utility.
“We all agreed to sit down with the province to work out an agreement and look at the best models. Coldstream agreed to that but never signed the agreement. They stalled it,” he said.
Garlick opposes amalgamation and says the current governance structure allows his council to address the specific interests of Coldstream and to be financially accountable.
“In the case of amalgamation, service in the area would go to the service levels and costs of the city. This would include garbage pick-up, transit and other departments that would have little if any benefits to the outside areas. There will be the need to take on the costs of roads in the electoral areas from the province with increased expectations of service by the residents for those roads,” he said.
However, Lippert says residents in all jurisdictions are considering amalgamation because of the disputes over water and parks.
“People are talking to me about it,” he said. “Areas B and C should be amalgamated with Vernon or Coldstream or incorporated as a municipality on their own. In the long run, (amalgamation for) the whole North Okanagan should be looked at.”