Mayor Rob Sawatzky’s opposition to reconsidering the future of the Okanagan Landing Fire Department is expected given that he was one of four to support a single command structure for Vernon.
The decision has been made and reversing thrusters now would likely achieve little.
However, Sawatzky and the rest of the city must understand that the resulting controversy is the direct result of an inadequate process.
Based on the last go-around over the Okanagan Landing fire hall, politicians and bureaucrats should have anticipated the current decision would go over like lead-shot with the Landing volunteers and some residents.
A more proactive approach should have been taken in terms of communicating the city’s objectives.
That should have included the mayor and Vernon fire chief immediately meeting the Landing volunteers face-to-face instead of just firing off a letter. Perhaps an open and frank discussion right at the beginning would have doused some of the uncertainty and mistrust.
There should have also been a public meeting at Paddlewheel Park Hall so residents could hear first-hand how the new structure will proceed. Yes, the Landing has been part of Vernon for 19 years but there is still a sense of identity and community there and the volunteer fire hall has played a significant role in that.
If the new administrative structure is so solid, there should be no problem defending it in a public venue. Issuing a press release simply isn’t transparent enough. Ultimately, a case can be made for the direction Vernon is taking with firefighting, but the city’s ability to communicate with those affected is certainly lacking.