To the editor:
The City of West Kelowna referendum outcome as a no by 27 votes is the best possible outcome for the city and the taxpayers. This was really several questions disguised as one simple yes or no, winner take-all vote. Because it was so close it shows there is common ground, and common interests, for the majority of taxpayers.
Some of those YES voters may be opposed to the 3P partnership, the financing, the location, the use of reserves or a combination of these parts of the project, but put higher emphasis on the space needs than the cost or other factors, so held their noses, and voted yes. Other residents want a civic centre and a new city hall and voted yes, while others believe the development is a great project hoping for more development in the area; so they too voted yes.
The NO side received many votes from residents who recognize the city space problem is an artificial red herring that the city should have been solving every two or three years so the staff were not crowded, and they voted no. Others want a new city hall but were opposed to the 3P partnership, the amount of space, the size of borrowing, the use of reserves, the location or a combination of these parts of the project; so they too voted no.
I believe the city can safely say a new city hall is desired by a majority of residents, but the vast majority are opposed to some aspects of a plan that has serious concerns for the majority of those residents who examined the issues and voted either yes or no in the referendum.
Now is the time to get out of this 3P partnership, overbuilding for the next 30 years, excessive costs and depletion of needed reserves. Now is the time to retool and rethink the civic space needs for today, realize the staff have been overcrowded and rent offices or portables now to solve this short term issue.
For those advocates of 3p partnerships, remember it is called ‘junk science’ by the Ontario Auditor General and costs about 16 per cent more than construction done by the city itself. Just ask Westbank First Nations how they enjoyed the hospital 3P partnership that cost them several million dollars when that deal fell apart.
Now is the time to step away from the people of influence and pressure groups who set the agenda for the revitalization plan, utilize fresh city staff to meet with open-minded residents to see how the NO side and marginally YES side voters’ concerns will be addressed and the ways to salvage the huge investment in design studies done to avoid paying to do it twice.
We need to respect the many communities that make up the city of West Kelowna and position the City Hall to best serve us all.
The city administration and council can either become a part of the solution, they can step away to lick their wounds, or they can decide to create more problems. It rests with the mayor and council to change its position, to fall in with the majority of voters, (and I suspect residents) who want improvements to city hall, but not at any cost, not in 3P partnership, not with depletion of reserves nor at the expense of basic services.
Doug Waines, West Kelowna