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City supports amalgamation despite veto

Despite a clear veto from the District of Coldstream and Electoral Area’s B and C, the City of Vernon is keeping the recent amalgamation study on the table.

Although the province has already stated that a study will not be conducted unless at least two of the parties agree, the city feels it is still worth considering -- even suggesting the mayor send a letter urging the others areas to reconsider their decision.

“There seems to be enough interest in our whole region in exploring this and taking a look at least. Obviously there are some people that are dissatisfied with the way things are now,” argued Councillor Catherine Lord, who is in favour of having the study conducted.  

Councillors Lord and Bob Spiers put forward a motion to not only support the Greater Vernon Governance Society’s request for an amalgamation study, but to also send a letter urging other districts to reconsider. They also want to see a question about the possible amalgamation put onto the next civic election ballot; happening in November 2014.

The councillors received full support from council on all three motions.

Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky insists this move by council is not meant to step on anyone’s toes, but more to keep the debate on the table and answer the questions once and for all.  

“I think there is a real intention on the part of this council not to intrude on the autonomy of other jurisdictions. We have no intention of telling them how they should deal with this; we are only providing this as a model or suggestion or possibility,” shared Sawatzky.

Coldstream Council and Regional District Directors from Areas B and C have made it very clear they are against the study, which would investigate uniting Greater Vernon’s four jurisdictions under one governance structure. 

They feel their position has been stated clearly and this should be a done issue. The city is not listening to what they say, is a clear message they have received from their constituents.

“They are welcome to make those resolutions and send those letters but I don’t think it will go very far,” said Maria Besso, a councillor with the District of Coldstream who was in attendance at the meeting.

That thought was reiterated by Electoral Area C Director Mike Macnabb, who feels this is a closed issue.

“I am struggling with this a little bit because the Coldstream council and Area’s B and C said they have no interest in doing the study,” he said. “I think the only people that are interested in this is the City of Vernon, and I think that is perhaps because they would like a bigger tax base.”

City of Vernon Council argued the study is of no cost to them and would finally put the issue to rest; something the others say is just not true.

“We are in the midst of doing a lot of very important work for our constituents right now and this would be a huge time consuming distraction on our staff,” said Councillor Besso. 

“As a provincial tax payer I would be very upset with the provincial government if they were to unilaterally, based on only Vernon’s position, conduct the study.”

City of Vernon council will now send a letter to the other jurisdictions to ask for their reconsideration of the topic, but Besso and Macnabb say it’s a done deal and their voters do not want the study done.

“The question that needs to be asked is who benefits and what is so broken that we need to fix it,” queried Director Macnabb. 

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