Removal of park caretakers

In a display of contempt for their communities and constituents, 8 out of 12 members of the Regional District of the Central Okanagan board voted to remove caretakers from the regional parks on Monday, April 24th. Except for Brad Sieben (Kelowna), Cindy Fortin (Peachland), James Baker (Lake Country) and Wayne Carson (northwest side), the directors ignored the over 1000 letters and petitioners, the over 70 people crammed into the board room, a delegation that outlined the concerns, research and analysis done by community members, and seven months of inquiry about the reasons for this cut to the program.   According to several people who attended the meeting, many of the directors smirked and rolled eyes, one didn’t know there were Regional Parks in Kelowna, and Chair Given even scolded the caretakers for not moving out more quickly.

We continue to ask why this cut to the program is happening.  At the moment, the “reasons” boil down to money, funny money it seems.  Presumably environmental, cultural, safety, and social reasons are of no interest to those directors who voted to cut the program.  But the “economic” reasons remain so flimsy and secretive it hard to believe anyone could take them seriously, especially our Board members who are supposedly interested in fiscal responsibility.  They cannot name a single efficiency nor point to a clear cost benefit analysis. During the public financial plan process in March, when the public asked where the mysterious savings were coming from, there was never once a clear answer given. 

Until now! At the meeting, it was announced incredibly, suddenly, and out of the blue, that the RDCO Parks would save nearly one million dollars in future maintenance of the residences of the caretakers.  Where does this bizarre and fantastical number come from?  You’d think if this huge savings was a genuine reason, back in September when they announced the cut to the program they would have trumpeted this amazing figure.  The figure is stunning since just two and a half years ago in a Regional Parks Service Review, endorsed by this very board in November 2014, the maintenance of ALL 11 of the caretaker residences was estimated to be about $80,000 over the next 20 years. Now suddenly, a whole million dollars will be saved by removing 3 or 4 of the residences. How is this even possible?  Did the parks staff lie to the Board back in 2014 or were they so incompetent they didn’t see a nearly one million dollar bill ahead of them?  Or was this million dollars just magically pulled out of a hat in the past couple of weeks once the community began to question the figures being used in the RDCO financial plan? 

This lack of responsiveness to the community - with the exception of the four members who listened and actually met with and talked to members of the public- and this lack of real financial scrutiny are very worrying.  We seem to have elected officials who will not listen to the public and who are refusing to provide any believable explanation for the decision they seem to want to make in the face of common sense and genuine community concern. 

We need a public inquiry into this situation.

Nancy Holmes

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