Okanagan MLA wants to hear the public’s priorities

There is no shortage of items to add to a list of priority capital projects on the Westside.

  • Feb. 4, 2011 7:00 p.m.

There is no shortage of items to add to a list of priority capital projects on the Westside.

But what would you choose if not everything could be paid for?

That’s what local MLA Ben Stewart wants to know.

Recent moves to gather information on public priorities on capital projects from across the Okanagan saw a newsletter delivered to residents in Kelowna and Lake Country to gather their opinions.

On this side of the lake. the Westside-Kelowna MLA said he will be holding a series of neighborhood consultations starting in March to gather input from constituents here.

The first meeting will likely address health care on the Westside, he said.

Stewart wants to talk about the issues that are affecting residents and he has found prioritizing projects on the Westside is becoming too large and confusing a process.

From the potential of future intersections along the Highway 97 corridor to the health clinic long asked for by residents, Stewart said he wants to know where the electorate sits on the possibilities.

He noted priorities really depend on which neighborhood someone lives in.

Improvements to Westside Road are important to the thousands of residents who live along it, but he pointed out that project is very specific and doesn’t affect everyone.

The MLA acknowledged the district of West Kelowna also has a range of priorities, including more waterfront development in the Gellatly Road area.

“The Westside is a (fast) growing community for young families,” he said. In communities like that—Shannon Lake, Smith Creek, Glenrosa, —there are different pressures.”

He added a common priority is making sure residents have access to school classrooms in their neighborhoods. But for aging residents, there are other goals.

“If I’m a senior, I would like to have the Westbank urgent care centre being built right now.”

Stewart said in speaking recently to Interior Health Authority officials, he was told the clinic will be built and is a priority, but the IHA is unable to say exactly when it is going to happen.

He added that in most neighborhoods, there is a lot of aging infrastructure. Water access is still an issue in areas like upper Glenrosa. And he pointed out there has been a great deal of interest from upper Glenrosa about having water brought up to their area. For those residents, it is a high priority, but Stewart said out of the total taxbase, it may not be as high.

He pointed out representatives have to be careful, and manage people’s expectations. Projects occurring can depend on access to funding through a variety of sources.

Stewart noted access to funding for any type of project is coming less easily in the current economic climate. He pointed to projects that successfully gained backing, from the Westbank sewage treatment plant to Hudson Road improvements and fire mitigation funding for both the district of West Kelowna and the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

Once the new Liberal leader is selected, Stewart said the most needed capital projects will be examined as government revisits its priorities before the next provincial budget in September of this year. He noted the budget coming out this month will include funding that the Westside has typically worked with in the past, and he isn’t aware of any new grants coming this time around.

“It’s really getting things prioritized in our area, so when it comes to issues around capital, we know clearly what we want.”

msimmons@kelownacapnews.com

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