Oyama Coun. Todd McKenzie and Mayor James Baker shake hands after they hear they will retain their seats on Lake Country council Saturday night. - Carli Berry/Capital News

ELECTION NIGHT: Baker remains Lake Country’s mayor, fire hall upgrade approved

Voters decided tonight to keep longtime mayor James Baker.

Lake Country will keep longtime mayor James Baker for another four years.

Election results came in at around 8:50 p.m. Saturday night, with 1,479 votes came announced for Baker. His competitor Barry Rhodes earned 1,266 votes.

“We’ve got a lot of things on our plate and we’re going to keep them going,” Baker said. For his fifth term, Baker said he will focus on the Jensen and Hill Road affordable housing project.

“It’s also in conjunction in getting the recreation centre happening,” he said.

One of the main issues during this election was the district’s referendum for a new fire hall.

The district stressed the need for a new fire hall, saying the old one is insufficient for Lake Country’s growing population. A referendum was held Saturday during the election to allow the district to borrow up to $6.6 million for the hall.

Voters came out in favour of the fire hall with 1,724 voting yes, and 1,026 no.

Baker said it was “wonderful” that residents voted in favour of the new fire hall and that “it was a long time coming.”

It was narrowly defeated 10 years ago by 25 votes, he said. “It’s something we’ve been budgeting for, putting money away, and we know what we can afford to do.”

Cara Reed is the new Carr’s Landing councillor. She earned 183 to incumbent Coun. Jeanette Lambert’s 65.

Reed was ecstatic to hear the results Saturday night and said the first thing on her list to do as councillor is to look at where Carr’s Landing sits in the budget. She’s setting her sights on road maintenance and repair, access to public waterfront and working to improve boat launches in the area as councillor, she said.

Candidates Blair Ireland for Okanagan Centre and Jerremy Kozub for Winfield have already taken their seats on council with no competition. Coun. Bill Scarrow, Coun. Penny Gambell and Oyama Coun. Todd McKenzie all retained their seats.

McKenzie said he will continue working to secure funding from the province to mitigate fire risks in the district.

Amy Geistlinger is the new Lake Country trustee.

Some residents said they weren’t pleased with the cost, noting that it’s too high and dislike the district will be building the hall partially on ALR land.

READ MORE: Lake Country’s proposed fire hall a ‘Taj Mahal,’ says critic

The loan will be paid in a period of 20 years at about $476,000 per year at a borrowing rate of 3.5 per cent, according to the District of Lake Country’s website. The cost to an average home of $656,000 would be $90 per year for 20 years.

The talk around a new fire hall also tied with discussions about wildfire mitigation, which was a hot issue after the Nighthawk Road wildfire in Okanagan Centre destroyed eight homes in 2017.

Insured losses equalled more than $13 million. The Lake Country firefighters also spent 1,114 hours at the Okanagan Centre blaze.

A contentious bylaw, which was defeated by council after Carr’s Landing residents rallied, brought up the discussion around public waterfront access.

The district originally planned to sell portions of land near Gable Beach in order to pay off Kelowna’s interest in Okanagan Rail Trail lands.

A deal was made between the municipalities in 2015, as the district purchased the rail trail lands through its borders at a cost of $5.2 million, a contentious purchase that went to the public twice in 2015. First, an Alternate Approval Process failed before the district went to a full referendum, which passed in April of 2015.

Kelowna currently has a $2.6 million investment in Lake Country rail trail lands and since Lake Country was unable to meet its deadline of three years, interest is now accruing on the properties.

During an all-candidates forum held earlier this month, the public asked questions about congestion around Highway 97 and Glenmore Road intersection, which both Baker and Rhodes said would be a top priority for them.

READ MORE: Lake Country candidates weigh in on Okanagan Trail, pool and new fire hall

As one of B.C.’s fastest growing municipalities, development continues in the district. With no speculation tax, developers are eyeing up the municipality and residents are pushing back as their quaint lifestyles continue to change.

Voter turnout for Lake Country was 26 per cent, which was slightly higher than 2014’s election of 25 per cent.

MUNICIPAL ELECTION 2018 RESULTS
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Mayor James Baker shakes hands with competitor Barry Rhodes after the election results Saturday night. - Carli Berry/Capital News

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