By Joe Fries
Special to OsoyoosToday
An offer to allow the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to hold its board meetings in Penticton council chambers got a frosty reception last week.
Noting the estimated annual cost of about $20,000 for the RDOS to rent extra space for its emergency operations centre — which had consumed its board room earlier this year and forcing meetings to be held elsewhere in rented space — Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit suggested the RDOS directors instead meet across the street at City Hall free of charge.
However, the board voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favour of staying put and coughing up money to lease space for the EOC.
Board chairwoman Karla Kozakevich said Sunday that directors felt it important for the Regional District to maintain a separate identity and avoid confusing residents and clients.
Plus, staff wouldn’t be able to duck out of their offices to address the board, and council chambers are designed for the city’s seven politicians, while the Regional District board has 18 directors.
“I’ve been there for meetings and I just don’t see how it’s physically possible,” she said, adding the RDOS board room is also too small for the EOC to function properly with up to 30 people working at a time.
Mayor Jakubeit, who also sits on the RDOS board, believes the idea of sharing council chambers was at least worth exploring.
“It’s a large room, and if the regional district was looking at spending some money for a lease anyway, we could have looked at some reconfigurations,” he said Sunday.
“Eighty per cent of the time, council chambers is empty. That would have been a good example of shared services.”
The board instead agreed to a staff suggestion to rent 2,365 square feet of space in the commercial building at 105 Martin Street – right next door to RDOS headquarters.
The EOC has operated out the building since May, providing easy access for staff and data services.
“The need for a defined space for a primary emergency operations centre has become more prominent over the past two years,” Chief Administrative Officer Bill Newell wrote in his report to the board.
“We anticipate extended (emergency) responses in the years ahead and 105 Martin Street adequately meets those needs, not only due to proximity but connectivity.”
Today marks the 80th day of operation for the EOC this year. It ran for about five months last year.
The lease will cost $2,365 per month, but will also allow the RDOS to scrap a separate $1,050-a-month lease in the building for storage.
That will leave the new cost at $1,585 per month, some of which may be covered by the provincial emergency program.
Joe Fries edits and reports for the Penticton Herald. OsoyoosToday and the Herald share an informal editorial use agreement.