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Boonstock security concerns

Plans are moving ahead for the Boonstock Music & Arts Festival slated for the August long weekend in Penticton.

Organizers announced the lineup on Wednesday, including such acts as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and say other steps in the process are being dealt with.

"There are a lot of plans in place to make this successful, and now we are communicating them out," said operations director Barb Haynes. "Today is all about announcing the lineup."

The organizers have worked with the Penticton Indian Band to execute the festival, and last week the PIB council voted in favour of supporting the event on locattee land, said Haynes.

A security plan is also written, but that will continue to change and grow as new information comes forward, said Haynes.

An RCMP liaison has been assigned to the organizers, and they are working with him, with more meetings planned for the months ahead.

There will also be a lot of construction and development at the site and tickets sales will be happening.

"It's very exciting, there are bigger names than a lot of people anticipated" said Haynes. "Now the fun begins."

PIB Councillor Kevin Gabriel confirmed the council supported them moving ahead, and said they are going to do what they have to do to make it as safe as possible.

"We have the Peach Festival in town that does well, and I think this festival could work as well with the proper planning and everyone doing what they are supposed to," he said. 

There are some in the community, however, who feel the organizers are putting the cart before the horse.

Among them are City officials and RCMP Supt. Kevin Hewco.

Both the city and RCMP were taken by surprise last year, when Boonstock announced it was coming to Penticton. The event was held for several years near Gibbons, Alberta, but after concerns were brought up by neighbours and law enforcement regarding the event, the Sturgeon County Council voted to ban it in September.

Hewco said it is correct they've assigned senior Staff Sgt. Kurt Lozinski to be the liaison.

But he said if the organizers are suggesting they have worked closely with the RCMP, that is not the case.

"We've had two brief meetings with them, and all we saw was a brief draft of a security plan that by no means met our standards," he said. "Kurt has been chasing them to set meeting dates because the clock is ticking and they are establishing the bands for this. But we don't have the security plan in place to arrange for extra resources."

Such planning takes months, because it's the middle of summer in the Okanagan Valley, not rural Alberta.

"For example, I won't use any resources from the Penticton detachment, they will all be brought in from outside at the cost of the promoter," he said.

Hewco hopes, with the security planning needing to be done, that there will be meaningful dialogue and comprehensive in-depth planning expedited.

Councillor Andrew Jakubeit said the city still has concerns about the security plan and traffic management. and such plans have never been presented to council.

"It looks like good acts are coming, and they are acts that cater to a wide demographic," he said. "I just think as a good neighbour they should present security and traffic management plans to council."

Colin Kobza, president of Boonstock Productions, said it has been a major process, with a long list of things to be checked off.

"I feel fantastic," he said. "We've done a lot of work just putting the process together and putting logistics in place. And there is still a ton of work that needs to be done."

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