North Westside losing faith in regional district

Report: Rural area feeling ignored by RDCO board, staff

Wayne Carson

No action has been taken on recommendations from a report confirming an “erosion of trust” exists between North Westside electoral area residents and the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

The recommendations came from RDCO chief administrative officer Brian Reardon discussed for nearly an hour at Monday’s RDCO board meeting, but no resolutions were taken from it beyond to receive and file it for information.

The report cited communication issues and misinformation that has exacerbated the trust issue, reflected by a persistent sense among North Westside residents that the regional district board and staff don’t adequately represent their issues and that service costs, such as for water, are too high.

“Related to concerns about voting procedures, some residents feel that their needs are the last to be met in terms of regional or sub-regional services (e.g. regional parks). This perception is compounded by the feeling that communications with staff are met with either a lack of response or a disrespectful response,” stated the report.

“Further, on some decisions with significant impact on the community (e.g. increased water rates) there was a suggestion that engagement had been ‘token,’ and that the final decision was pre-determined before consultation began.”

Related: North Westside residents remain disenchanted

Among the report’s recommendations were to take communication policy steps to dispel misinformation, such as creating a North Westside information web page or newsletter, to further clarify the expectations and restraints provided by RDCO staff and requested by the public, and to more clearly illustrate the role of the electoral area director for North Westside as a liaison with the regional district.

Reardon told the board a preliminary budget of $15,000 was required for this work to be done with further costs likely as such a program was implemented.

The report also called for a detailed diagnostic assessment of the service areas and costing that are principal concerns to North Westside residents.

Wayne Carson, the RDCO rural area director for North Westside, said he was fine with the board’s initial response to the report, saying an independent consultant would be needed to help implement any of the report’s recommendations because of the trust issue.

Carson maintained the singular question his constituents have is what it would cost North Westside residents to incorporate as a municipality.

“I don’t think the board or regional district should spend any more money on consultants until that question gets answered. That is all we are asking for at this point,” Carson said.

Carson said his preference for the next step is for him, along with RDCO board chair Gail Given and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selena Robinson, to have a meeting to address how to answer the civic independence question.

He noted a petition sent to former Liberal municipal affairs minister Peter Fassbender with more than 700 signatures calling for the study did nothing to resolve the impasse to funding a self-governance study.

“All I want to see happen is to address that question straightforward with a self-governance study. It is the province that can make that happen,” Carson said.

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