For the record

We strive to provide accurate information to the public and we often use the assistance of the media to communicate our messages. On occasion, we find a correction or clarification is needed when a media story or letter to the editor contains a factual error.

On this page, we hope to "set the record straight" by providing that factual information directly to the public and we will post any corrections or clarifications including a link to the original source (if available).

South Perimeter Road

Feb. 9, 2018 - Readers of a recent letter Taxpayers are the real losers in the Kelowna Daily Courier, criticizing the decision to accelerate construction of South Perimeter Road (SPR), should be aware that it contains incorrect information.

The biggest error is the claim that the city will provide the developer behind this project with a 28 per cent Development Cost Charges (DCC) subsidy “to offset any road, park, sewer and water servicing costs needed by his subdivision project.” This is simply not true.

Under the proposed agreement, a third-party developer will finance and construct SPR along with an extension of Gordon Drive for no more than $9.263 million. While the City will compensate the developer with DCC revenue collected in the Southwest Mission, this does not exempt the developer from paying DCCs related to any of its own projects it may have in the benefitting area. The developer is not getting a subsidy, rather they are being paid for constructing the road, as would any other third-party contractor that does work for the City.

It is anticipated to take five to seven years to completely pay for this construction. The 35-year period mentioned is the maximum amount of time allowed for repayment, not the amount of time it is actually expected to take.

The writer also accuses Kelowna’s Mayor and City Council of ignoring taxpayers with this decision and diverting funds away from “much-needed and long-sought after road upgrades to Lakeshore Road.” On the contrary, before proceeding with this project, the City of Kelowna sought extensive community input on the impact of accelerating SPR on other planned road projects in the Mission area, including Lakeshore Road. The results showed that there is strong support for proceeding with SPR.

More than 300 residents attended an open house and in exit surveys, 62.5 per cent of respondents indicated they support accelerating construction of SPR. This was backed up by a statistically valid survey of 300 randomly selected Mission area residents. It found that 64 per cent of residents support the accelerated construction.

In addition, proceeding with SPR does not mean the City will be unable to go ahead with other road work. We are intentionally retaining 20 per cent of DCC revenues to make sure we have the flexibility to accommodate critical projects that need to be completed before SPR is repaid.

Ultimately, residents will have the final say on this project through the Alternate Approval Process. And while it’s a good thing for residents to debate the merits of the project before making a final decision, we believe it is important to ensure the dialogue is based on facts.    

Johannes Säufferer
Real Estate Services Manager
City of Kelowna

Tourism centre and taxes

In response to the June 13 letter in the Daily Courier, Tourist centre a bad deal for city, this letter is to provide your readers with information they need to be more fully informed about the visitor information centre project.

The writer expresses concern about Tourism Kelowna’s Visitor Information Centre’s “direct and indirect cost to taxpayers” and the existence of a hotel tax that is, in his opinion, bad for tourism.

The hotel tax is a provincial tax enabled by municipal bylaws to fund destination marketing efforts only. It’s used by 59 communities and regional districts across B.C. and variations on this tax are common across North America and around the world.

This tax has been in place in Kelowna since 2004 and we have seen a marked increase in the number of annual visitors in that time. Since 2011, the number of visitors to Kelowna has increased 27.5 per cent. Spending on activities and entertainment has increased a whopping 367 per cent in that same time.

Hotel tax funds will not be used for the new visitor centre project and there is no direct tax from the City of Kelowna going to this project. The City does provide Tourism Kelowna with a grant of $346,000 a year to help fund its entire operation. Beyond park improvements in the area, there are no new or direct taxes going toward this project.

As a result of Tourism Kelowna’s work, the local tourism sector generates 11,900 total jobs, $337 million in visitor spending and $1.2 billion in total economic output.

While the letter writer is critical of the nominal fee charged to Tourism Kelowna to lease the property for the visitor centre, the City sees the return on investment for our community far exceeding the revenue that would result from charging full market value for that property.

The City of Kelowna and other municipalities in the Central Okanagan work in partnership with Tourism Kelowna because our communities experience the economic benefits of its marketing work. This non-profit society does a great job attracting visitors.

The City of Kelowna ranks in the bottom five cities in B.C. for lowest tax rates, but is among the leaders for services provided and amenities for citizens to enjoy. Council and administration are always mindful of spending, and do not enter into agreements such as this one without weighing all the options and determining the most effective course of action.

We remain confident that the new visitor centre will play a role in continuing to serve our tourists and residents well for many years, while also adding an attractive and useful facility to our waterfront.

Doug Gilchrist
Divisional Director,
Community Planning & Strategic Investments

Boyce-Gyro Park and parking lot will have more space

Readers of a letter criticizing plans for the redevelopment of a parking lot beside Boyce-Gyro Park should be aware that it contained incorrect information.

Before getting into the details, here are some quick facts:

  • There will continue to be parking at the park – 132 stalls that will not all be fully occupied for 90 per cent of the year.
  • The sale of a small portion of land at the north edge of the existing parking lot will fund more recreation facilities and amenities for the park.

Before the City bought the Watt Road property in 2006, Boyce-Gyro was served by 36 parking spaces in the park and another 26 spaces across Lakeshore Road. The City’s plan was to create a new parking lot of 100 stalls.

Before the planning process began, Council set a minimum target of 120 stalls, a further increase on the originally anticipated 100. As the design progressed, space for parking was increased further to the 132 stalls, a 32 per cent increase on the original estimate when the land was purchased. This is significantly more than the many other popular beach parks along Lakeshore Drive.

The existing temporary gravel parking lot was created, but parking can be disorganized without stall markings, and the lot can reach capacity with anywhere from 90 to 118 stalls. 

In addition to the increased order and capacity through marked parking stalls, the parking lot design also has generous planting boulevards so trees can visually break up the large paved area and provide welcome shade. 

The City’s parking counts at the park since July 2016 show the existing lot only reaches capacity during hot, summer days – less than 10 per cent of the year. 

The City is not actively seeking to discourage the use of cars in this case, but it is also always looking to support pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. The plan does include extensions of the multi-use trails along both Watt and Lakeshore roads. 

Commercial redevelopment was always anticipated when the City purchased the property. The sale of the commercial property will generate funds for multi-use trails and other recreation and park amenities.

In fact, this proposed plan actually increases the area to be designated as park. It is also an opportunity to reclaim some of the highly valuable land near the beach to increase the recreational area of the park, and add additional amenities, for the benefit of all park users. 

Contrary to claims in the letter, this plan provides more than double the parking stalls available before the land was purchased, retains more parkland than originally anticipated, funds the improvements largely through profits achieved on the land sale, increases the recreational area of the park and adds valuable amenities such as additional volleyball courts and multi-use trails.

Kelowna Area Water Management Plan will address concern

May 8, 2017 - Mat Hanson’s May 2 letter in The Daily Courier, Drinking water should not come from creek, contains a lot of incorrect information.

For example, Phase 1 of the Kelowna Integrated Water Plan will have absolutely zero effect on Mission Creek. Phase 1, which will be underway until 2020, is to provide treated lake water to domestic customers in South East Kelowna, while providing back-up water for agricultural use during extreme drought conditions or service disruptions. This resolves a significant health issue in South East Kelowna and does not involve getting water coming from Mission Creek.

No one is proposing “to double the amount of water we take out of” Mission Creek. It’s also incorrect to say “most (residents) already have a steady, fresh and reliable flow of clean drinking water from the lake” – in fact, about half the City’s population continues to get their water from open surface reservoirs, wells or creeks.

As for his laments over a lack of scientific study regarding the use of Mission Creek as a source of drinking water (which is where Black Mountain Irrigation District already gets its water most of the year), that study is coming.

As previously stated in a response to a previous letter from Mr. Hanson, the City has said that more work needs to be done before moving past Phase 1. The City will be reaching out to other organizations to prepare a Kelowna Area Water Management Plan that includes the planning of headwaters of the major creeks flowing into and through the City. This level of planning will consider agricultural irrigation supply, fishery enhancement, habitat protection and flood control in addition to the supply of clean drinking water.

He also makes this false statement: “The report also does not take into account the increasing pressures of climate change.” In fact, climate change and sustainable environmental stewardship are fundamental motivations for the plan.

Here’s part of what the report actually says about climate change:

“Climate change is widely recognized as the single greatest unknown for future water supply planning. Potential impacts include increased growing seasons in the shoulder months, precipitation falling more as rain rather than snow in the uplands, increased irrigation requirements (both domestic and agriculture), increase in extreme events (both drought and flooding), and possible reductions in mean streamflow.

“Therefore, it is recommended that a methodology be developed to continually update demand forecasts and consider supply impacts due to climate change. Climate science research related to watershed impacts is continually evolving; however, care should be taken to use that information carefully and appropriately.”

Before anything is done to establish Mission Creek as a sustainable source of drinking water for an integrated water system, there will be extensive study and consultation. Your readers should know the City of Kelowna would never jeopardize Mission Creek or the wildlife that rely on the creek.

We need to work collaboratively in developing a water resource management plan that meets the needs or interests of the many agencies and community groups.

Ron Westlake,
Water Integration Project manager
City of Kelowna

Water: value planning worth it

To the editor,

In response to a letter by Mr. Graeme James (Clean, clear water) published April 18, the City believes its $115,000 spent to receive almost $44 million in senior government funding represents an excellent return on investment. In fact, it’s unprecedented.

The value planning “workshop” was a condition of receiving senior government grants. The City and SEKID each invested this amount recognizing the potential benefit of a grant to South East Kelowna residents.

Thanks to senior government funding, ratepayers in the South East Kelowna Irrigation District are now paying less than 20 cents on the dollar to receive clean drinking water. In contrast, Glenmore Ellison Irrigation District’s relatively small ratepayer base is paying the entire $18-million cost of gaining access to Okanagan Lake and building a UV treatment facility to replace its open-surface McKinley Reservoir.

In 2010, the City of Kelowna proposed providing drinking water to GEID from the City’s existing Poplar Point intake – an option that potentially could have provided GEID ratepayers with the opportunity to access senior government funding as well.  

In our view, the most affordable water system comes from the City of Kelowna’s ability to access to senior government funding and the ability to spread capital costs over a larger population. The City is also reviewing options for equitable agriculture irrigation rates in preparation for the integration of SEKID.

The City and South East Kelowna Irrigation District each paid $115,000 for the Value Planning exercise required by the provincial government. The VP study was the final step agreed upon for the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan, with all local water purveyors signing on to the terms of reference.

Unfortunately, after initially agreeing to fund and participate in the planning exercise, GEID, Rutland Water Works and the Black Mountain Irrigation District chose not to attend at the last minute.  

Lastly, contrary to statements in the letter, domestic ratepayers in the GEID who use an average of 41 cubic metres per month pay almost 30 per cent more than those in the City of Kelowna water utility. Heavy domestic water users in the GEID would see the cost inequity between the two systems widen even further because the GEID’s large volume rates are higher than the City’s and kick in sooner. 

The Value Planning has created a framework for moving forward.  It is hoped the other major Irrigation Districts, including GEID, will participate in future planning exercises to ensure the best lowest cost city-wide solution is delivered over time regardless of the current boundaries.  

Ron Westlake,
Integrated Water Project Manager
City of Kelowna

Mission Creek will not be drained dry

Recent Castanet stories quoting Matt Hanson about the use of Mission Creek as a source of water for the City of Kelowna need to be corrected.

Mr. Hanson expresses the fear that using Mission Creek as a source of drinking water at some point in the future will drain the creek dry. That is not going to happen – no more water is expected to be drawn from the creek than is currently licensed to the Black Mountain Irrigation District.

Not only that, but the integration of the system with water drawn from Okanagan Lake will add flexibility to give the creek a break when it is at low-flow times of the year or during a drought. Quite to the contrary of Mr. Hanson’s expressed fears, the flow in the creek for environmental and ecological needs will be better protected by this new system.

The City would never do anything to damage Mission Creek or the wildlife that rely on the creek and will be proceeding with the full involvement of relevant provincial ministries and agencies.

There are federal and provincial laws that regulate withdrawing water from creeks and rivers to ensure the health of streams including flows required for environmental reasons. Black Mountain Irrigation District currently uses Mission Creek for the majority of the year to provide its customers with drinking water.

There is more studying to be done – we will be doing a water modeling study to get a clear picture of our local water sources and their capacities.

The strength of the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan is its built-in resiliency and redundancy. If there is a shortfall in Mission Creek for any reason, more water could be drawn from Okanagan Lake or ground water. 

The primary agricultural sources include Hydraulic, Scotty and Kelowna creeks, along with the ability to draw from existing wells, Mission Creek and Okanagan Lake if agricultural sources are compromised.

The City is committed to protecting or restoring fish and wildlife stock and habitat in Mission Creek and is an active partner in the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative (MCRI), a multi-phase, multi-stakeholder partnership formed officially in 2008 to restore natural functions to the lower sections of Mission Creek.  
 

Ron Westlake
Water Integration Project Manager
City of Kelowna

Mission Creek - Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan

Mar. 17, 2017 - Some statements made in various media about the use of Mission Creek as a source of water for the City of Kelowna need to be clarified.

The Okanagan Fisheries Foundation has expressed concerns in the media about the flow of water in Mission Creek once the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan is developed over the next 25 years.

The City of Kelowna just received an award for its environmental stewardship of Mission Creek. The Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group Award recognizes the city’s longstanding efforts to protect the fish and other species that rely on a healthy creek.

The City would never do anything to damage Mission Creek or the wildlife that rely on the creek and will be proceeding with the full involvement of relevant ministries and agencies.

There are federal and provincial laws that regulate withdrawing water from creeks and rivers to ensure the health of streams including flows required for environmental reasons. Black Mountain Irrigation District currently uses Mission Creek for the majority of the year to provide its customers with drinking water.

There is more studying to be done. The Value Planning exercise held in January recommends the development of City wide water model and a more detailed review of how the water systems will be split for domestic and agricultural uses. Water distribution demands will be compared with available licensing to ensure that any one water source will not be over drawn. 

The Value Planning Study reviewed current and future licensing requirements as related to the proposed plan and determined there is adequate flow for both domestic water and fish flow. If at times of the year the flow is inadequate, water would be drawn from Okanagan Lake intakes to balance need.

That’s the beauty of the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan – its built-in resiliency and redundancy. If there is a shortfall in Mission Creek for any reason, more water could be drawn from Okanagan Lake or ground water. 

The primary agricultural sources include Hydraulic, Scotty and Kelowna creeks, along with the ability to draw from existing wells, Mission Creek and Okanagan Lake if agricultural sources are compromised.

The City is committed to restoring fish and wildlife stock and habitat in Mission Creek and is an active partner in the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative (MCRI), a multi-phase, multi-stakeholder partnership formed officially in 2008 to restore natural functions to the lower sections of Mission Creek.  

Water integration plan well researched

March 6, 2017 - The March 1 article in The Daily Courier, “Water users may not be loving the city’s new plan,” raises a few questions that I am pleased to address.

The main questions concern the capacity and quality of water in Mission Creek, and whether that water source can supply the clean, safe water customers of the City water utility have come to expect.

Your readers should know the Value Planning Study reviewed current and future licensing requirements related to the proposed plan and concluded there is adequate flow for both domestic water and fish flow. This was determined through the Value Planning process earlier this year, with input from relevant provincial ministries and local water planning experts.

The Value Planning Study recommends developing a city-wide water model and a more detailed review of how the water systems will be split. System demands will be compared with available licensing to ensure that any one source will not be over drawn. 

The beauty of the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan is its built-in resiliency and redundancy -  if there is a shortfall in Mission Creek for any reason, more water could be drawn from Okanagan Lake or wells or vice versa. While the plan to use Mission Creek as a city-wide water source is implemented over time, Okanagan Lake will supply water to areas identified in Phase 1 of the plan.

The withdrawal of water from streams in British Columbia is governed by acts enforced by the Provincial and Federal governments to ensure the health of streams, including flows required for environmental reasons.

The City is committed to continued restoration of fish and wildlife stock and habitat in Mission Creek and is an active partner in the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative, a multi-phase, multi-stakeholder partnership formed in 2008 to restore natural functions to the lower sections of Mission Creek.  

The new plan also suggests a comprehensive approach to protecting the Mission Creek watershed and looking at ways to store excess capacity. 

As stated in your article, “the 60,000 city residents who currently rely on the municipal system already have clean, safe water at reasonable rates, thanks to the city’s technically expert and financially prudent management of the municipal utility.”

That same “technically expert and financially prudent management” would be at work on the integrated system to ensure water quality remains at standards that exceed Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines. Technical analysis of the water in Mission Creek shows it is of high quality for most of the year. Black Mountain Irrigation District currently uses Mission Creek for the majority of the year to provide its customers with high quality drinking water.  Using water from Mission Creek for the majority of the year will save significant operational costs as using gravity is much less expensive than pumping from Okanagan Lake.

The 2017 Integrated Water Supply Plan has the benefits of ensuring rate equity no matter where residents live, along with efficiencies in operations and administration. An integrated system will also help maximize the ability to defer advanced treatment and when required will significantly reduce costs.

The team that developed the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan included objective third-party water related experts from the United States, with specialties ranging from planning to building cost estimates to rate setting, along with representatives from local engineering firms who have extensive experience with Kelowna’s water systems and sources such as Mission Creek and Okanagan Lake. The team was supported by provincial representatives Interior Health, the ministries of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations and representatives from the City of Kelowna and South East Kelowna Irrigation District(SEKID).  

I would like to assure residents that careful planning and testing will occur to ensure water quality and supply remain at the high standard enjoyed by city water utility customers for the past 20 years.

Ron Westlake
City of Kelowna

Correspondence included in Public Hearing minutes

Feb. 23, 2017 - In response to recent letters to the editor, regarding the Jan. 24, 2017 Public Hearing minutes for the Tourism Kelowna application, we would like to provide some clarification and corrections about the correspondence received by Council.

Correspondence identified at the public hearing, and subsequently included in the minutes, represented items received during the statutory "notification period" only and not everything that was received in the weeks and months prior to the meeting. In the case of the Visitor Centre, this notification period was between Jan. 11 and 4 p.m. on Jan. 23.

The City Clerk will identify at all public hearings, and for all items, the correspondence that is received by the Office of the City Clerk during an official notification period. During this time, statutory notices are delivered and advertising of the Public Hearing is placed in the newspaper, as required under the legislation. Our practice is to include all written correspondence received by our office during the official notification period in the meeting minutes.

Correspondence related to Tourism Kelowna sent to City Council through City channels in the weeks and months prior to and after the meeting was circulated as per normal procedure.   

Stephen Fleming, City Clerk
City of Kelowna

Sidewalk bylaw update

November 29, 2016 - In light of recent media reports by some news outlets, that did not include comment from the City of Kelowna, I would like to personally respond to concerns being raised regarding a recent bylaw change pertaining to sidewalks.

I want to be abundantly clear that the City of Kelowna is not targeting people sleeping on our streets with the purpose of harassing or incarcerating our most vulnerable residents.  

The purpose of this bylaw is to prevent people from obstructing sidewalks and preventing accessibility for residents. The bylaw also prevents people from congregating on sidewalks and intimidating others.

Before the changes, the bylaw could only be enforced between the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.. With a growing and more vibrant downtown, this bylaw update extends the existing bylaw enforcement to include nighttime, as people who live and work in the downtown core have identified sidewalk obstructions as a problem.

Most often, the complaint involves someone blocking the sidewalk with their stuff in front of a business or residence in the morning.  I want to be clear that action will only be needed if someone is obstructing the sidewalk and impeding others from using it.

It's important to note that this program works in conjunction with the new storage service at the Gospel Mission (a program the City helped establish), letting people know they can safely store their belongings there.

Enforcement staff are trained to address these situations with compassion and ensure the person obstructing the sidewalk is aware of services available to them. Again, contrary to some uninformed media reports and social media comments, this is not a targeted program to harass the homeless in the middle of the night. Enforcement in these matters is always in response to complaints – officers are not out there searching the streets for someone to fine.

Fines may be issued, but we know in many cases collection is not possible nor realistic. What it does is create a file that can be turned over to law enforcement if the offender is involved in criminal activity. We want to ensure that downtown is a safe and welcoming place for all our residents.

Bylaw enforcement is just one small part of a more holistic approach to dealing with homelessness and street issues in Kelowna, both of which are the top priorities of Council. There are many things we are doing to address these issues. The following are just a few examples.

Hiring a Social Development Manager in 2016 was the first step in a process to develop a Homelessness Strategy and bring together partners within the community to help address this growing issue facing communities across the country.

The new Social Development Manager is currently working on a strategy for the next three years. This position was created to convene and/or collaborate among City departments and partnering social agencies with the long-term goal of developing a made-in/for-Kelowna approach to address homelessness and related issues.

While no one individual or agency is able to solve these complex social issues on their own, this dedicated City presence will contribute to the joint efforts of government, community groups, businesses and social agencies to address our community’s issues and develop a coordinated, strategic approach.

Like most cities in Canada, Kelowna has a population of residents who are chronically or occasionally homeless – most gather in our downtown core because that’s where the services are.

A Point in Time homelessness count was conducted this spring and counted 223 people living on the streets in Kelowna, but we know the true number is much higher. The population tends to grow in the summer, which raises the profile and concern among residents and businesses;
 
This is a complex social issue being targeted by a number of committed local organizations that do good work to help those in need. Outside of hiring a social development manager, City staff already participate in a number of community projects and strategies to address homelessness and other associated social issues. Some of these include:

  • Partners for a Healthy Downtown;
  • Sharps Action Team (to deal with needle disposal and clean up);
  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Community Advisory Committee to help those living on the streets with mental health and addiction issues;
  • Housing projects;
    • Leading a strategy to encourage the development of more family-friendly affordable housing through the Rental Housing Grants program, zoning bylaw changes and tax incentives. As a result, more than 1,600 purpose-built rental housing units have been approved by Council over the past two years and are either under construction or soon will be
    • The City of Kelowna continues to partner with BC Housing on social housing projects, typically providing the land as it has for recent projects like Pleasantvale, Ki-Lo-Na Friendship Society (at Central Green) as well as land for two other affordable housing projects announced for our City last week

These are just a few examples of the many things we as a municipality are doing. A fair but firm approach will help balance the needs of all of our residents. 

These are complex issues we can't solve alone. We will continue to work with higher levels of government, social agencies and concerned residents to improve the lives of those who need our help. 

Sincerely,  Mayor Colin Basran

City response to Transit strike

November 18, 2016 - There have been calls by some for Kelowna City Council to “step up” and get involved in settling the current transit dispute. The City of Kelowna continues to urge First Canada and its employees to return to the table to resolve this disruption to our community and we continue to express our concerns to the province and BC Transit.

We completely understand our transit users’ frustration. People in each of these communities rely on public transit for essential, day-to-day activities – commuting to and from work, school, medical appointments, shopping and other important engagements. For many, this is their only way to get around and we are sorry this essential service has been taken away.

I want to clarify how the system is organized so that people have a better understanding of responsibilities and how decisions are made.

The City of Kelowna, Regional District of Central Okanagan, District of Lake Country, City of West Kelowna, the District of Peachland and Westbank First Nation all have a contract with BC Transit, the provincial transit authority. BC Transit contracts the delivery of transit services in the Central Okanagan to a private operator, First Canada. This arrangement has allowed us to afford a rapidly growing transit system without a service disruption in 39 years

First Canada was selected through an open and transparent bidding process by BC Transit to provide transit services in the Central Okanagan. There are five years remaining on that contract. First Canada provides transit service through similar agreements in 13 other municipalities/regional districts in the province.

First Canada then hires employees represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722 to operate the buses in the region. Those working for First Canada are not municipal nor provincial employees.

The total cost to operate the transit system in the Central Okanagan is approximately $20 million. Half of that funding comes from the Provincial government, through BC Transit. The other half is split between the six municipal partners and transit users through the fares they pay. Revenues recover 30 per cent of transit operations, but this heavily subsidized program is worth funding for its many benefits to our communities.

Thanks to provincial funding, we have been able to grow transit service in this way since 1977. Yes, the municipal “partners” provide significant funding, but as the primary funder, BC Transit has final say in most decisions. More local autonomy and control over how and where the provincial funds are spent is something the municipal partners continue to advocate for. But setting up a regionally owned and operated transit service is not something the municipal partners are considering at this time, as it would require significant tax increases.

Mobility for our residents is a necessity, but Kelowna City Council does not have the authority to deem transit an essential service, nor can it order drivers back to work or appoint a mediator. These legislative authorities all rest with the provincial government. The municipal partners are also not involved in the ongoing contract negotiations between First Canada and the Union because, as mentioned earlier, these are not municipal employees.

Local governments share the funding for local administration of the service, including scheduling, bus stops and promotion campaigns.

So what is the City of Kelowna doing to help restore transit service to its residents? We are putting pressure on First Canada and its employees to get back to negotiations and reach a resolution as soon as possible. I have requested an appointment to speak with Transportation Minister Todd Stone about our concerns, and the City has been in daily contact with BC Transit officials, urging them to pressure both First Canada and its employees to help end this stalemate.

Kelowna City Council has suggested that transit service should be made an essential service in the hopes that some high-volume routes can be restored while negotiations are ongoing.

The City of Kelowna will continue to do whatever it can, in our capacity as a regional partner in this system, to help bring about an end to this labour dispute.

There are no winners in a situation like this. This is certainly not something we want to see happen or continue for a long period of time. Kelowna City Council has promoted transit in good faith and for good reasons. Within the capacity we have as a municipal government, and in partnership with the Province we will continue to invest in making transit more accessible for all residents.

Until transit service resumes, this is an opportunity for our community to come together and help one another. We all have a responsibility to find a way to help those impacted the most.

On a personal note, I have two young children that I hope won’t need to own cars when they grow up. I want them to become regular users of our transit and active transportation system.

The longer this job action continues, the harder it will be to win back the ridership we have grown year after year, with the cooperation of all involved. Again, I urge First Canada and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722, please get back to negotiating and resolve this issue for the betterment of all.

Sincerely,
Mayor Colin Basran

Transit roles and responsibilities

November 10, 2016 - The City of Kelowna believes it is important to explain roles and responsibilities for the delivery of transit services in the Central Okanagan, given the potential for job action as early as Thursday, Nov. 10.

BC Transit contracts with First Canada to operate transit services for the Regional District of Central Okanagan, Kelowna, Lake Country, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and Peachland. Each municipality holds its own service contract with BC Transit and funding is cost shared.

On Friday, Nov. 4, the unionized employees for First Canada served 72-hour strike notice. Labour negotiations are between First Canada and its employees. The operating company, First Canada, is independent of BC Transit and local transit partners.

As such, we must respect the collective bargaining process and therefore not interfere with, or influence in any way, the negotiations being conducted between First Canada and its employees. The City of Kelowna is not involved in negotiations, as these are First Canada’s employees, not City employees.

City of Kelowna staff are monitoring the situation closely and are hopeful that First Canada and its unionized employees will reach resolution without disruption to transit services. We apologize to our valued customers for any inconvenience this matter may cause.

Customers can visit bctransit.com/kelowna or call 250-860-9121 for more information and updates.

Rafael Villarreal, P.Eng.
Department Manager Integrated Transportation
City of Kelowna

Facts about Pandosy Waterfront

September 28, 2016 - Some clarification and corrections are required for a letter published in the Capital News Sept. 19 under the heading," Info roundup on Kelowna’s Cedar Avenue park."

The letter writer provides a chronology of the Pandosy waterfront development plans near Cedar Avenue. The sequence of events described is generally accurate.

However, there are some opinions expressed as fact that need to be corrected or clarified.

For example, while the beach was seen as a potential public swimming beach in 1989, water quality testing after 2004 found the shallow, creek-fed bay prone to contamination from water fowl and other biological conditions. 

The letter also states, “…the City of Kelowna’s real estate department took full control of planning and developing this park site but made a mess of it because their plans are driven by economic and political goals that ignored the public interest and the community vision for the site.”

In fact, public interest was foremost in the minds of 30 community members who came together for two full days to design options on how to develop the park. The development option selected by Council opens the waterfront to public use, including the creation of the Paddle Centre which provides public programs for all ages and day camps for kids booked through the City’s Active Living and Culture Department and now has more than 350 members who use the area every day.

Further to the point of public interest, the majority of people who commented on the plan when it was developed by community members saw public value in creating a connection from the Pandosy Village to the park and waterfront.

Elsewhere, the writer states, “In February 2016, the city’s 2030 Infrastructure Plan showed the real estate division officially delayed park construction until 2027…”

For the record, decisions on park construction schedules do not rest with the real estate division, but are prioritized by the City of Kelowna based on funding plans for all the city’s long-term capital projects for roads, buildings, parks and pathways. Council’s selection of an all-park configuration came with the acknowledgment it would delay construction by at least a decade based on higher funding priorities throughout the city.

One more: “Since 2014, the real estate department has covered the sand with large boulders along the entire southern part of the beach…”

In fact, this work was planned and completed by the infrastructure division in 2012-13 and was necessary to replace a retaining wall that was failing after a storm. At the time, the city sent letters to immediate property owners and put up signs to explain why the work was necessary.

Tom Wilson
Communications
City of Kelowna

City support for cycling

May 27, 2016 - This is in response to the May 25 letter in the Kelowna Capital News, “Kelowna does not support cycling to work or anywhere else.”
 
The writer might have missed the news that the city is preparing to begin construction of a path under the Highway 97 overpass this summer that will give cyclists a safer route to UBCO.
 
Another safe path to UBCO from the Glenmore will be under construction this year, with John Hindle Drive providing another bike path separated from the road.
 
While these works have not progressed at a speed satisfactory to the letter writer, the fact is Kelowna already has the most extensive bicycle network in Canada for a city its size. Statistics Canada says Kelowna has, per capita, the second-highest commuter cycling population in the country.
 
We believe this high participation level is helped by the more than 300 kilometres of marked on-street bicycle lanes and more than 35 kilometres of multi-use pathways the City has constructed over the past 20 years.
 
The city’s new Cycling Master Plan was developed with input from the public and outlines an All Ages and Abilities (AAA) primary network. The AAA network consists of existing and future separated bicycle facilities on key corridors that are being connected over time. This network allows people to avoid on-street riding for many trips.
 
The network continues to grow and improve with the addition of new cycling infrastructure such as wider on-street bike lanes, multi-use paths and, separated bikeways on streets such as Clifton, Cawston, Gordon, Barrera, Sutherland, Ethel and Lakeshore.
 
We are also adding to our Rails With Trails infrastructure and are excited about developing a world-class facility with the acquisition of the old CN Rail line connecting Kelowna to Coldstream – a $22-million investment in non-motorized transportation options by the partnership of local municipalities and provincial government.
 
Highway 97 is a provincial road and the widening work referred to in Mr. Cadger’s letter is being done by the Ministry of Transportation Infrastructure. The City of Kelowna, meanwhile, will continue to expand its extensive off-road bicycle path network.

Current conflict of interest regulations for Council

May 11, 2016 - In response to the letter “City Council should review court ruling” published May 9 (various media), readers should be aware that the information cited by the writer is out of date.

The Province recently enacted the Conflicts of Interest Exceptions Regulation. These new regulations address the implications of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Schlenker v Torgrimson, by removing the risk of disqualification for local government elected officials in certain circumstances.

The Provincial government enacted the new regulation to ensure that those elected officials appointed by local governments to the boards of societies, or corporations incorporated by their local governments, would not be deemed to be in a conflict of interest if they participate in decisions to expend public funds to these entities.

According to information from Young Anderson Barristers & Solicitors, the following criteria must be met to fall within the new exceptions:

The local government elected official in question must have been appointed by their local government to serve on the board of directors of a society or a corporation that the local government has incorporated to provide a service to that local government.

The new regulation removes any conflict of interest for Council members who serve on the board of directors for Tourism Kelowna, which is a not-for-profit society.

Sports field watering and maintenance

May 4, 2016 - In response to a letter published by Castanet April 19, here is some information about the practice of sports field watering and maintenance.

Sports fields are not your average lawn – they are subject to more severe damage due to the types of activities and foot wear used on the grass. Keeping the grounds maintained requires more watering than a normal lawn to repair the damage and ensure the ground is level and safe for players.

Some more information about the special care of sport fields:

  • they require summer closure and some light daily watering to germinate grass seed
  • they are mowed and watered more frequently than other areas of the park to provide optimum playing conditions
  • some sports fields are sand-based to guard against compaction, because sand doesn’t hold water as well as soil, it requires more frequent watering
  • after re-seeding, the fields require more frequent watering and occasional light day time watering to promote seed germination

Kelowna has an excellent reputation about provincial sports associations for the quality of its playing fields. This quality is achieved with irrigation technology that makes the most efficient use of water.

Overall, the amount of water used on local parks has decreased in recent years through irrigation improvements and rigorous monitoring of field conditions.

Ian Wilson
Park Manager
City of Kelowna

[Original letter]
Sports fields overwatering
Castanet
April 19, 2016

To our city council:

Seeing as water is apparently your top priority this year, why not cut back on the wasteful use of it on the sports fields?

Try the conservative approach. Water twice a week and see how it goes instead of the daily deluge. The pitcher’s mounds alone could save hundreds of liters. Do you need grass to pitch a baseball?

There is so much overwatering of these sports fields it is criminal. No excuse for it in this day and age.

Heather Hamilton

Provincial policy on grants for irrigation districts

April 19, 2016 - The April 14 KelownaNow article "Kelowna resident disgusted over dark coloured water" needs some clarification.

Contrary to what is stated in the story, the City of Kelowna is not holding up grants to the four independent irrigation districts that operate within the City boundary. Irrigation districts are ineligible for grants under provincial policy.  To access grants they must integrate with local government.

The Province suggested six years ago irrigation districts could be eligible for grants if the five water purveyors could come up with a plan that is the best city-wide solution for the lowest cost and must demonstrate that five independent water districts are as effective as one city-wide water utility.

The Province requires the improvement plan to be reviewed by an independent body.

Unfortunately, after four years of trying, the five separate local water districts cannot even agree on the terms of reference for the Value Planning exercise.

The article further states that South East Kelowna Irrigation District has a plan to drill some wells, use ground water and have domestic users on that system.” According to SEKID’s website, a ratepayer toll is currently raising money to access ground water by the end of 2019 that will provide water to fewer than half its clients.

More than half of SEKID’s customers need to wait until 2033 before Phase 2 of this plan produces more groundwater.

Meanwhile, the Okanagan Basin Water Board is working with local partners to study ground water to ensure there’s enough of it to supply a growing city. A UBC study released last year found the water level in the Rutland aquifer has been in steady decline for decades.

With five water utilities acting independently, small ratepayers will always face high costs for capital improvements – some of which would not even be needed in an integrated system. An integrated system will have ongoing access to funding from other levels of government and potentially a city-wide levy that would spread costs over the entire population. 

The City believes it’s time to have a single, integrated system that supplies safe and secure water at equitable rates to all citizens with oversight by Kelowna City Council and the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

The Province’s long standing policy is to phase out irrigation districts and convert them to local government oversight. The City of Kelowna is attempting to ensure capital projects proposed by the irrigation districts make financial sense and make sense as a city-wide system it will one day inherit.

Ron Westlake
Special Projects Manager
City of Kelowna

South Kelowna water

April 12, 2016 -  A letter on Castanet April 12 from a Southeast Kelowna resident concerned about the muddy water in her bathtub contained some incorrect information.

The water in this case is from South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID), not the City of Kelowna as stated in the letter.

Kelowna City Council has made water quality its top priority for its term in office and, while the city has no authority to fix the water problems facing our city, it is advocating for the province to move toward an integrated city-wide water system.

There are five independent and separate water systems operating within the City of Kelowna boundary, all supplying water of varying quality at different rates.  The irrigation districts are independent public authorities subject to supervision by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. They have their own elected boards and staff, their own water sources and distribution systems, and their own user fees.

The City believes its time to have a single, integrated system that supplies safe and secure water at equitable rates to all citizens with oversight by Kelowna City Council and the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

The Province’s long standing policy is to phase out irrigation districts. To access grants and improve water quality, irrigation districts throughout the Province have always had the option of voluntary dissolution. Some have chosen self-preservation over provision of clean water to their ratepayers.

On their own the small ratepayer base in the irrigation districts can face large rate increases to fund improvements that will bring their water quality up to Canadian Drinking Water Quality standards. With integration, there are more options to fund the projects. The City has ongoing access to grants and a larger rate base to potentially fund a city-wide Water Quality Improvement Fee.

Citizens concerned about water quality should express those concerns to their irrigation district, MLAs and the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

Park development priorities

March 30, 2016 - Daily Courier columnist Ron Seymour wrote March 30 about a recently acquired waterfront property, expressing concern about the delay in developing the property into a lakefront park.

He is correct to say citizens should be excited about the purchase of this legacy asset for the community, but there are a number of reasons why development will not occur in the immediate future.

The park is a part of the 2030 Capital plan process, which has other significant community parks currently in queue, Dehart Park, Central Green (Rowcliffe), South Pandosy Waterfront, and Glenmore Recreation Park.

As part of the acquisition, there is a tenancy interest for a portion of the property, which means it is not accessible to the public and the residents’ privacy should be respected.

This is often the case with city-owned properties held for future park – they will continue to be offered to tenants, until budget is available to create a safe and vibrant park for citizens.

Fees and natural gas

March 10, 2016 - This is in response to the Castanet letter to the editor, March 7, 2016, about fees and/or taxes for natural gas.

The fee referred to in this letter is actually a long-standing Franchise Fee that FortisBC Gas pays to the City of Kelowna. Three per cent of the gas company’s gross revenue received from properties within Kelowna boundaries is paid to the City - payment for ongoing use of City property (i.e. access to road right-of-way to install and maintain infrastructure).

This type of fee is a common practice among utilities such as FortisBC Gas and other municipalities, and it’s a fee that has been in place since 1957 for the City of Kelowna.

City-wide approach to water quality and distribution

Feb. 25, 2016 - This is in response to recent articles (Kelowna Now, Feb. 23 & Castanet, Feb. 25) that suggest amalgamation of Kelowna’s water districts would be a loss for Rutland Waterworks customers.

The City of Kelowna is looking at the issue of water quality and distribution in a city-wide way. Individual irrigation and water districts each have strengths and weaknesses – the City’s view is that integrating all the water systems would provide greater security of water quality and supply no matter where you live in Kelowna.

Integration would be in the best long-term interest of Rutland Waterworks customers who rely on the Rutland Aquifer as the main source of drinking water.

At City Council’s Feb. 22 meeting, UBCO Professor Craig Nichol presented the results of a study that shows the Rutland Aquifer has been steadily declining since 1979 and that very little groundwater is flowing to Okanagan Lake. This suggests more water is drawn from the aquifer than can be replenished naturally.

Rutland Waterworks District and South East Kelowna Irrigation District both draw water from the aquifer. Rutland Waterworks is planning to increase its use to support projected growth of 4,200 residents by 2040. South East Kelowna also plans to increase its use to support an additional 1,900 connections that will be added when their agricultural and domestic systems are separated. The UBCO study suggests the current level of extraction may not be sustainable and additional demands could affect existing well users and nearby Mission Creek. 

Kelowna’s strength is we have multiple sources, but our weakness is they are not interconnected. Real integration makes it possible to move large volumes of high quality water across boundaries to address water quality, supply and treatment in a cost-effective manner.

Water Providers: Correct information about governance, grants

Feb. 25, 2016 - Some incorrect information was provided to various media outlets last week about how water improvement grants work and whether a discussion on governance should part of a plan to fix Kelowna’s water problems.
 
On CBC radio Feb. 15, a representative of South East Kelowna Irrigation District said there are “tens of millions of dollars” in grants that the City could have applied for on behalf of the water districts that would have allowed the projects in the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan (KIWSP) to proceed. 
 
In fact, improvement grant funds have been on hold until a provincially mandated independent review of the KIWSP is done. All water providers have known this since 2012, but have failed to agree to the terms of reference for the study to proceed.
 
There was one grant program available, the Strategic Priorities Fund, and the City did apply for water project funds on behalf of the Kelowna Joint Water Committee under this program, but was unsuccessful.
 
Without grants, ratepayers in each individual irrigation district have funded these “tens of millions of dollars” of ongoing projects through the only other means available – customer rate increases.
 
The spokesman also said about the KIWSP: “…the city wants to turn this into a governance review…. But we don’t feel it is appropriate because this is a technical report and there’s nothing about governance in it.”
 
The SEKID spokesperson also told Castanet on Feb. 17 that a governance review will take years and slow things down. These statements are not correct.
 
Section 6 of the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan is all about governance. This 16-page section on governance is an important part of the KIWSP and the City of Kelowna refuses to have it excluded from the the Value Engineering Analysis. 
 
The plan needs to be considered in its entirety – sections cannot be discounted or removed from the review simply because they might be of concern to the Irrigation Districts. The fact that irrigation districts are choosing to ignore this section suggests governance is in fact the obstacle to implementing the province’s requirement for the best-lowest cost solution to Kelowna’s water challenges.
 
The City of Kelowna believes these challenges cannot be addressed under the century-old system of separate and independent utilities. We believe an integrated system is the best investment for Kelowna and that’s why a governance review is important. We need to look at solutions without the limitations of district boundaries.
 
The City wants to work with the province to develop a long-term plan for an integrated system delivering clean drinking water to all citizens at equitable rates, along with a sustainable water supply and rates for agriculture.
 
Tens of thousands of residents are under frequent or nearly constant water quality advisories and 70 per cent of citizens surveyed say water quality improvement tops their list of priorities for investment.
 
Due in part to its large ratepayer base, the City of Kelowna has continually improved its water system without the assistance of funding from senior levels of government. This kind of robust system managed throughout Kelowna would ensure interconnections are in place if one source experiences supply or quality issues.