Residents who live on the North Westside of Okanagan Lake will soon learn more about the way they are governed, what services they’re being provided, for how much and whether changes are needed.
The North Westside Community Association made a request to its governing body, the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) to have a study done on governance and services.
Bruce Smith, communications officer for the RDCO, told Global News the RDCO then went to the provincial government, which approved and funded the study.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs provided a $60,000 Restructure Planning Grant to the RDCO to conduct the governance and services study for the Central Okanagan West Electoral Area with an emphasis on North Westside communities.
The electoral area encompasses about 1,200 residents and eight small communities, mostly rural and unincorporated.
They include Westshore Estates, Killiney Beach, Estamont, Ewings Landing, Valley of the Sun, Fintry, La Casa and Caesers landing.
On Wednesday night, the first of four open houses was held at the community hall in Killiney Beach, to outline the process of the study and get resident feedback.
According to Neilson Strategies, the local government consulting firm hired to do the study, the process has three purposes.
The first is to ensure the residents fully understand their local governance and what services they are getting.
“The second purpose then is to understand from electors, from the people who live here…what their concerns may be with respect to governance and services, ” said consultant Allan Neilson. “The third purpose of the study is to identify options to improve and to address some of the concerns that are brought forward by electors.”
The consulting group will collect all the information and present recommendations and options for possible improvements.
“The North Westside, and in other places that undertake governance and services studies, the issues that we see coming forward tend to be long-term issues, longstanding issues,” Neilson told Global News.
Some of the long-term issues may involve the handling of natural disasters, such as wildfires.
“The past three to five years, with the natural disasters that have occurred, that may focus people’s attention on wanting to find different ways to govern themselves and wanting to find different ways, different types of service arrangements,” Neilson said.
While there has been a roughly 25-per cent increase in population in the area since the last census, Neilson said the numbers and tax base aren’t enough to take it a step further to consider incorporation.
He added it isn’t a viable option, at least not at this point.
“I think if they are looking for options…that would be changes to the structure,” he said. “I think they would be more looking at how do we want to look at possibly amending the regional district boundaries to look at being part of a different regional district. That may be more of an option that comes out of this type of study.”
The report with any recommendations on a more effective governance system will be presented to the RDCO in September.
You can check out the North Westside Governance and Services Study for more information or to have your say.