By ROY WOOD
While occasional animosity or rivalry arises between the townsfolk of Oliver and Osoyoos, the mayors and councillors seem to get along famously and regularly hold joint meetings to discuss issues of mutual interest.
The most recent was last Friday in Oliver. It followed one last year hosted by Osoyoos council.
“I just think the highlight for me and others was the spirit of cooperation,” Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said in a recent interview. “We all deal with the same stuff. We are colleagues.”
Sue McKortoff, his southern counterpart, agreed: “We have a very good relationship. We know each other well enough that we can bring things up. … And work together.”
For the most part the mayors were reluctant to discuss details of the discussions. Some of the areas being discussed, said Mayor Hovanes, will involve the regional district and the Osoyoos Indian Band. “I can’t really talk about them before we deal with the other partners,” he said.
One thing they were willing to talk about was the potential for the towns to share often-expensive pieces of equipment.
Buying such things together or having a formal sharing agreement can be cumbersome, said McKortoff. But they did informally agree, “it’s there is we absolutely have to borrow something.”
Dealing with senior levels of government is another area of potential cooperation.
Mayor Hovanes mentioned that Mayor McKortoff and Oliver Councillor Petra Veintimilla have both attended Interior Health meetings and are working together to lobby the province to introduce the use of electronic medical records (EMR) in the south Okanagan.
As well, said Mayor McKortoff, the recent interruptions of service at the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver were discussed.
“The emergency room is an ongoing concern. We’re going to look and see what the two councils can do to assist there.”
Joint strategies could also be employed when dealing with provincial ministers.
“If there are things that we’re both interested in and need to speak with a minister (about) at the UBCM, we’d work together and make and make an appointment (together),” said the Osoyoos mayor.
Bylaw enforcement, particularly as it relates to seasonal transient agricultural workers, was also on the agenda. “(Osoyoos) has their issues on their beachfront and we have our issues in a couple of parks,” said Mayor Hovanes. “Sometimes it’s good to share stories and practices and ways of tackling different issues,” he said.
Mayor McKortoff said the airport came up. “It’s always sort of a big issue because Oliver has the airport facility and we don’t. … We just sort of bring it up and talk about it so we know what each other is doing.”
The two mayors also agreed that they will approach the regional district together to address ongoing issues around signage on Highway 97.
The ongoing saga of the closure of Osoyoos Secondary School was specifically not on the agenda. “The school was off limits, we all agreed,” said Mayor McKortoff.
Added Mayor Hovanes: “They are involved in a legal case and we thought we don’t really want to wade into it.”
As for formal agreements and plans, Mayor McKortoff said, “That isn’t the kind of meetings that we have. We just bring these things up to discuss them and see if we want to do anything further. … It’s more of a spirit of collaboration and sharing of ideas. … to make sure we work together.”
“It was good meeting,” said Mayor Hovanes. “I think everybody walked away feeling pretty good.”