A $200k 'lesson learned'

The Mayor of Penticton said the Skaha Lake waterslide debacle was a “lesson learned” on the value of public engagement.

The city announced this week it is spending $200,000 to terminate its 29-year contract with the Trio Marin Group, a revised deal that would have seen the company spend close to $1.5 million to renovate and operate the Skaha Lake Marina.

“Going into this we all had good intentions, we wanted to revitalize the marina, provide some amenities and attractions to the park, but it went off the rails,” Andrew Jakubeit said on this week’s Mayor’s Minute.

Following public outcry and protest, the city amended its deal with Trio last fall, removing the waterslide and use of park space. Jakubeit said after that, it became clear there was no need to sign a 29-year lease on such a small deal.

“It gives us an opportunity to have a fresh start in terms of what happens at Skaha Park,” he said.

But why wait so long to kill the deal?

Jakubeit said they wanted some time “to let the dust settle” and give Trio a chance to build a revised plan.

“Both parties agreed to building in some sort of termination agreement,” due to the sensitive nature of the deal, Jakubeit said.

The Mayor said the upfront cost of $200,000 isn’t huge when looking at the alternative of the 29-year agreement.

“We recognize we had a very bad process,” he said, pointing to the downtown revitalization work that saw more than a year of public consultation before getting underway.

But when it came to Skaha Lake Park, “we talked amongst ourselves, staff and the developer for about two years and then went out to the community — a totally backwards process.”

“Having this drag on for two and a half years and be divisive or build some animosity and debate in the community, I think if we could do it again, we would do things differently,” he added.

“It’s certainly been a lesson learned in the value and power of engagement.”

And he said that’s “not just rhetoric,” referring to large public outreach campaigns they have conducted recently on things like parking and the city’s arenas.

Looking forward, Trio Marine holds the rights to operate the Skaha Lake Marina until the end of 2018.

As for what happens after that, the Mayor said the public will be consulted extensively on what will happen to the aging facility.

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