It was a busy Council Monday last week — so busy that no less than seven or eight items on the agenda warranted additional conversation beyond Council chambers.
But, with limited resources, OsoyoosToday provided to its readers more information on three of those items — a zoning change to facilitate a proposed retail cannabis operation, a proposed new townhouse complex and its impact on Vedette Drive and encouragement to get behind a downtown makeover initiative.
We also provided notes from the Council meeting.
At least one other item deserves additional comment: the installation of an elevator at Desert Park.
In the minutes, the item is referenced with a single line: Council awarded the contract of the 2018 Elevator Lift for Desert Park Grandstands project to Kirkwood Elevators Ltd., for $35,930 plus taxes.
Obviously, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The outdoor elevator will be installed to provide for improved access to the grandstand portion of the facility. It will travel six feet from the ground level to the base floor. From there, users — be they in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues — will have to navigate the awkward space themselves.
Coun. Brian Harvey hit the nail on the head with a a question he asked during a brief Council discussion: “What events (do) we see this being used for?”
As he noted, the last time bums sat in grandstand seats was during May’s Medieval Faire, specifically for a number of shows featuring a jousting troupe brought in from Calgary.
“We heard this morning that Medieval Faire is not on (in 2019),” the new councillor noted. “We haven’t had a horse race there in three years.
“I’m just curious: what’s the driver behind it when it was put into the budget?”
The answer, as provided by CAO Barry Romanko, is that “Council tries to make all our community facilities accessible.”
He added “there was a specific request” by the Desert Park Society to have the grandstand made accessible.
“I think it was also a recommendation — we had a study done a number of years ago on community accessibility and this was one of areas that was identified,” he added for good measure.
In fairness to the current Council — which voted 4-1 to approve the purchase — the decision to add the elevator was made by a previous Council during budget deliberations in 2017 and 2018.
But, without discounting the valuable work undertaken by several Town committees — the community services committee and later the Age Friendly Committee — the question begs to be asked: why would the Town be adding a $36,000 piece of equipment at a location frequented by very few people — mobility-challenged or otherwise?
Coun. CJ Rhodes later reported the funding for the elevator came from a $50,000 federal mobility grant, which means the purchase and installation of the elevator isn’t costing local taxpayers a dime — at least not directly.
However, as Council heard, there will likely be costs incurred by the Town for future provincial inspections, maintenance and upkeep.
To shine the best light on the elevator, it could be argued its addition will make the facility more attractive for future events — perhaps not horse-racing but maybe soccer matches or baseball games, two other minor uses of the Desert Park facility.
Short of investing considerable cash into an overhaul and removing the track or adding a more appropriate dirt arena in front of it, I’m not sure what else would draw crowds to the grandstand.
There is talk of outdoor concerts, but Osoyoos already has a downtown venue for that — Gyro Park, home to another location where a six-foot elevator might have made a good addition: lifting performers and patrons to the bandshell stage.
You can pencil in your own alternative locations for the elevator; the Legion Hall comes to my mind and I’m sure there are likely many others.
Which brings us to another suggestion Coun. Harvey made at the Nov. 19 meeting — why not use the funds to purchase a portable lift — or two or three? As he pointed out, such equipment is available at a cost of about $7,000 US.
Another good question — and maybe one residents should be asking their mayor and council.