It appears a proposed indoor aquatic centre for the South Okanagan will remain a figurative hole in the ground — at least for the time being.
The provincial government last week said it is reallocating funding from the Rural Dividend Program to provide supports to BC’s interior forestry industry.
The result of that decision will be — according to a letter delivered to funding participants Sept. 19 — that “all applications received in this fiscal years’ intake period . . . are suspended until further notice.”
That would include an application made by the Town of Oliver in July on behalf of other local governments in the South Okanagan — including the Town of Osoyoos and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen — looking for $100,000 to study the feasibility of the proposed facility.
“All Rural Dividend funding is on hold for now,” reads a quick email from Town of Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff, attending the Union of BC Municipalities conference in Vancouver.
“Other programs are not affected.”
Osoyoos Council voted in early July to support the Town of Oliver’s funding bid, which asked for $100,000 to help pay for the $130,000 study.
The decision to move funding from the Rural Dividend program to provide supports to a new $69-million forestry worker program that includes allocations for early-retirement bridging program for older workers, skills training and training grants, short-term fire prevention and community resiliency projects and a new job placement co-ordination office.
The Rural Dividend program provides up to $25 million a year to assist smaller rural communities — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous — to strengthen and diversify their local economies.
It is administered by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
This is the second time local government has come up short in its pool study funding bid.
The project has its roots in a December 2017 agreement involving the region’s three local municipal governments and the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Each agreed to chip in up to $7,500 to top up the study’s cost.
Oliver, on behalf of the four government entities, then applied for a $100,000 grant to enable the study. However, that initial request for funding was denied in March 2018.
The province at that time said “[t]he Rural Dividend Program received a large number of applications . . . and the funding requested significantly exceeded the Program’s available funds.”