Internet, floods a big focus

This story is part of a series highlighting each director race within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. Click for stories on Area CArea DArea EArea F and Area I.

Topics such as devising mitigation plan on river flooding, improving broadband internet and replacing Greyhound are dominant subjects among the three area candidates for rural Keremeos and Hedley this election.

Melodie Kolisnyk, Tim Roberts and Manpreet Uppal are all vying for the vacant Area G seat, which will be determined after Saturday's municipal election.

Elef Christensen was nearing the end of his second term as the area director when he passed away suddenly in June. Alternate director Roger Mayer has taken over since then, and he isn't seeking a full term as director.

Kolisnyk was born and raised in the Keremeos area and spent more than two decades living in Thorhild, Alta., north of Edmonton, before moving back 13 years ago. She said her background is in accounting and that she owned a small business in Alberta. 

"We lived in a little town just like Keremeos. While I was there (Alberta), I was on numerous organizations... I spearheaded building two state-of-the-art ball diamonds, as well as being on the committee to add artifical ice to our existing hockey arena. I did lots and lots of other things but that's kind of the two major things."

Kolisnyk said she's a member of the Similkameen Elks and the local Advisory Planning Committee. She's advocating improving the water systems in Hedley and Olalla, repairing the dike along the Similkameen River, working to get better internet service for residents and dealing with Greyhound leaving.

Tim Roberts has lived in Keremeos for nearly 40 years and is a full time paramedic, serving as a unit chief with BC Ambulance. He was a longtime councillor at Similkameen Elementary Secondary School and was a volunteer firefighter for 20 years.

"I think a lot of the issues that we have in our valley are not the sexy, ribbon-cutting stuff," Roberts said. "We're talking 20-year infrastructure issues, pressing the government in regards to orphan dams, dikes. And mitigating issues with tributaries." 

He added that interface fire planning is important, as is pressuring the province to address road maintenance in certain areas. Roberts went on to stress the issue of improving internet access, saying "people are being segregated out of that," and said a lack of transportation and improving community-based initiatives are also issues. 

Manpreet Uppal, born and raised on a farm in the Keremeos area, has a background in political science and has worked in forestry aviation in Canada and the United States through the years. 

He said his main focuses are to pursue provincial and federal grants for the area, improve internet, transportation and clarifying zoning in certain areas. He also touched on wanting to improve the response to emergencies and parks and recreation, which he said is a personal passion of his.

Uppal said he's been going door-to-door in the large area surveying residents on what they want to see done. "I'm getting an overwhelming response about what people want. It's just really putting my ear to the ground and getting a better understanding, kind of empowering them through the process and just making their voices heard."

The new Area G director will be voted in on Oct. 20.

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