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Shuttle concerns councillors

A presentation on a proposed passenger transportation service between Osoyoos and Kelowna International Airport, sparked a debate at Monday's Penticton council meeting.

Several councillors expressed concerns ranging from the service taking business away from the Penticton airport to where the funding being requested would go.

"We are being asked to subsidize a service that could put Penticton Regional Airport out of business," said Wes Hopkin. "I'm worried we are just part of a stopover plan, and if we lose service out of Penticton, Air Canada will pull the plug."

Councillor John Vassilaki shared this worry, claiming it will take folks away from here, ( Penticton), and to him this is just mumble jumble.

Robert Linttell, the South Okanagan Ground Transportation Advisory Committee representative,  who gave the presentation, denied this was the case.

While the airport is an important element, it should not be construed as being only an airport shuttle service, he said.

"It has to be emphasized the shuttle is there for the common use of the people, wanting to access the different communities and the services offered in those communities," he said. "For example, students trying to access classes, people trying to work at the new correctional centre in Oliver and other purposes such as medical appointments, business meetings and even visiting."

As for funding being requested, Linttell said that was made in a letter to mayor and council, sent to all communities along the corridor a few weeks ago.

That funding, he explained, is to enable the advisory committee and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, TOTA, to provide enhanced support for the shuttle service's success.

He further wanted to make it very clear that TOTA is a public agency not a privately run operation.

The presentation at the Penticton council meeting was the first regarding the service and others are anticipated, he said.

He said he was very pleased to be invited to make the presentation to council and his hope was it clarified and provided a proper understanding of the proposed service.

"It was obvious to me some councillors had not received the material, because the questions asked had already been provided in material provided to them," he said.

Lastly, the point was made regarding the economic advantages of such a service to the region being extensive.

Four bidders with 15 possible carriers have expressed interest to date. Bid close date is April 15, with an award set for April 30 and service to start in June.

A poll conducted by Castanet on the shuttle service, garnered 503 votes, with 350 voting yes and 153, no.

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