To the editor:
Last week, Kelowna council, chaired by acting mayor Colin Basran, voted to approve a $5.2-million upgrade to Lakeshore Road between DeHart and McClure roads without any public debate, despite the fact this approval fails Kelowna taxpayers in a number of ways.
First: The city’s 20-Year Servicing Plan and Financial Strategy shows the road work is not needed for another eight years. Another 800 homes must be built in the south Mission to trigger a need for the project. Council never questioned this change in planning and financing priorities and never questioned how this change would impact taxpayers. They simply nodded their heads in agreement.
Second: Taxpayers will need to pay at least $850,000 of the project costs. There is no guarantee this will be the final as-built cost, since city staff stated there are risks that it may not be delivered on time or on budget due to land acquisition costs and delays. Staff also stated that cost estimates were out of date and told council that more detailed provisional budgets will not come to council until 2015, when detailed road designs are completed and land had been acquired. Given this risk scenario, taxpayer costs could be three or four times this amount. Council never questioned the cost escalation and how it would impact taxpayers.
Third: City staff used the ploy of telling council that the safety of school children justifies moving the project to the head of the line. Council did not ask for nor did they receive any public safety or traffic analysis to support this claim. Yet, ICBC crash statistics show this stretch of road is not a high risk area compared to other roads in the city that are more dangerous and need to be made safer for public use before this one. Public safety was a ruse not a fact.
Fourth: City staff left taxpayers out of the public consultation process. They discussed the project only with developers, school board staff and staff and parents of students at Anne McClymont Elementary School, who petitioned for the project. Council failed to ask city staff why there was no consultation with taxpayers before approving the project, the sketchy budget and the future tax burden.
Lastly and most importantly, this project redirects scarce public money away from other much-needed, long-awaited and very real road safety projects that are needed elsewhere in the city. The intersection at Benvoulin/Dilworth and Springfield has the highest number of crashes of any road in Kelowna, excluding highway locations. It has six times the number of crashes than this section of Lakeshore Road and should receive six times the priority for funding a public safety solution.
Acting mayor Basran should have demanded a full public accounting of this project. Instead, he chose to ignore the public interest and the OCP and the 20-Year Servicing Plan and Financial Strategy without blinking an eye.
Councillors who fail to act in the public interest should not hold public office.