The District of West Kelowna will start the process to implement a school liaison officer “as soon as possible.”
The motion passed at council chambers on Tuesday, passing by a 4-3 vote.
The subjective wording of the motion left Coun. Carol Zanon feeling uneasy.
“What does ‘as soon as possible’ mean? If it means that we’re going to be spending about $190,000 without any input from anybody else at this point in time, I don’t want to go there,” said Zanon.
“If as soon as possible means that you get some of the background work done up so you’re ready to pounce on this as soon as we get into budget deliberations, that’s fine.
“It’s not on the merits of whether or not we need this resource person at this point in time, it’s how we want to pay for it and how we’re going to go about it and what we’re doing for the benefit of our tax payers as a whole.”
Council was informed that the normal process for requesting FTEs (full-time equivalents) for the upcoming year typically sees requests submitted in July; therefore, council would have had to request a school liaison officer two months ago in order to have that position filled for the 2011-12 school year.
If the district opts to request an FTE midyear, they are entering uncharted water: There is no guarantee that they will fill the position any sooner than if they waited until next July.
Despite this information, Coun. David Knowles was still in favour of fast-tracking the process.
“The time to start moving on this is now, rather than leave it,” said Knowles.
Coun. Duane Ophus was against the proposal to speed up the process.
“I’m a little bit surprised and perturbed that we’re discussing this again because this issue was discussed at length two months ago,” said Ophus.
“Council made a decision to proceed on a certain basis. I think that process was very well underway. To head it off now at this point, is not the right thing to do.”
On Sept. 2, district staff received a letter from Keith Fielding, the mayor of Peachland.
Fielding said that there is strong support for the possibility of Peachland district council including partnership funds in the 2012 budget to support the initiative.
Ophus said that the letter clearly indicates that Peachland council understand that West Kelowna council has a process in place. Ophus said he felt that disrupting that process is a bad idea.
“We’ve set the budget for this year. To do this at this point in time would require an amendment to the budget and will require a significant tax increase. We don’t need to be doing that.”
Coun. Rosalind Neis, who has been urging council to implement the position for months, said that if council didn’t act now, the position may never be filled.
“Councillor Ophus mentioned that we’ve been discussing this since incorporation. That’s four years that we haven’t done anything,” said Neis.
She also didn’t want to wait for the participation of other local governments and noted the uncertain wording of Fielding’s letter.
“It’s very nice that Mr. Fielding sent this letter. He uses the word possibly four times. It’s a great political letter because possibly they might be potentially interested in assisting. Somebody has to take the lead.”
Couns. Gord Milsom, Bryden Winsby and Knowles agreed with Neis, while Mayor Doug Findlater, Ophus and Zanon were opposed to the motion.