Lake Country’s operations manager says the district must either raise taxes or cut services in order to improve a crumbling roads network, 200 kilometres of which are in need of repair,improvements or replacement.
That message was given to close to 40 Lake Country residents who showed up late last week to see how the district was planning to tackle an issue that is going to cost about $92 million over the next 20 years.
Greg Bucholz, Lake Country’s operations manager, says a good cross section of Lake Country residents was on hand last week as the district laid out its Transportation for Tomorrow plan and took in some public comments on the issue.
“I think people recognized that our infrastructure and our roads are getting old and starting to show signs of age,” said Bucholz. “No one wants to pay more taxes but if we are going to do this we are either going to have to come up with some more money or pull back somewhat. We’re talking significant (cuts). It’s not much easier, raising taxes or reducing service.”
Lake Country staff is recommending an average $250 per year per household tax increase ($50 per $100,000 of assessed value) beginning next year to begin replacing the roads, many of which were built around 1970. Municipal council has begun the budgeting process for the next year but no decisions have been made.
Bucholz says Lake Country is no different than many jurisdictions that are dealing with the same thing.
“I think this is something virtually every local government is going through,” he said. “There is definitely infrastructure issues Canada-wide if not globally so we are not unique. What we are trying to do is get ahead of it. We’re trying to make tough decisions and are having these discussions as a community so we can make some tough choices and get to a point where we are sustainable for the long term.”
Among the comments from the public were issues such as the importance of sidewalks for people to get around the community safely as well as providing alternatives to regular vehicle traffic.
The district’s Official Community Plan lays out what the community wants for transportation in the future and Bucholz says right now the community falls behind what the OCP states.
He says it’s time to get started on improving Lake Country’s transportation.
“Our view is that this plan is right for the community,” said Bucholz. “It’s derived out of the Official Community Plan which is a bylaw and has some strong objectives around the transportation network. It’s important to note this is a made in Lake Country solution…this is not about putting in roads and gutters to the extent that the City of Kelowna would do. This is about keeping a rural community feel and providing functionality that is very cost effective.”
In terms of the financing, staff are recommending a five year ramp up to start the Transportation for Tomorrow plan. The public can still fill out a survey and have their input taken at Lake Country web site at www.okanagaway.ca. Once the public comment period is over this month, the plan will be presented to Lake Coutnry council before it moves ahead.