Residents champion additions to 2016 budget

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff concisely summed up Monday evening’s special 2016 Operating Budget and Five-Year Capital plan public meeting.

It was an opportunity, she told those gathered “to come up with good ideas on how we can spend your money.”

A handful of Osoyoos residents, business owners and organizations did just that. The gamut of discussion ran from road improvements to recycling and airport usage to affordable near-market housing.

The meeting, billed as an evening to allow residents to discuss and make recommendations on the Town’s 2016 budget and capital plan, drew just under 20 visitors and three Council members – McKortoff and councillors Mike Campol and Jim King.

Those wishing to present were provided up to five minutes to champion a particular cause. Council members were then invited to respond.

Among the topics pondered Monday evening:

  • Improvements to 68 Avenue between Main Street and 83 St – Businessman Brad Elenko pitched enhancements to the block, including curb, gutter, sidewalk and drainage, that he believes are critical for the safety of the avenue that includes Osoyoos Elementary School and the Sonora Centre. His plea was backed by several residents on the block. Elenko expressed his concern the project would be postponed until 2020, even though it has remained at the top of priority lists over the last five years.
  • Airport Development – Glen Harris, representing the Osoyoos Airport Development Society, expressed concerns about Council’s decision to earmark $35,000 for a study to make the business case for converting the Town’s airstrip to industrial lots. He noted the development society was using private funds for a study into the benefits of expanding the airport’s capacity.
  • Affordable Near Market Housing – Developer David Perehudoff spoke to the need for additional affordable housing in the community and the easing of Town requirements for various development fees to facilitate that development. Already engaged in a conversation with the Town about the Richter property, Perehudoff also expressed interest in the Southeast Meadowlark Area Plan.
  • Main Street upgrades – The Watermark Beach Resort, represented by General Manager Ingrid Jarrett, encouraged upgrades to Main Street between Park Place and Super Valu. The Watermark is hoping for improvements similar to what has occurred in the downtown core.
  • Improved traffic signage – Resident Ken Murray spoke to a number of unsafe and illegal traffic practices in the community that might be corrected with improved signage. Much of this discussion was centered on Eagle Court and its complex traffic flow.
  • Continued Water Quality Monitoring – The Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society made a pitch for assistance with upcoming capital requirements, including a new motor for a boat it uses to check water quality.
  • Cash for Cars – Gary Dell, representing the Cactus Jalopies Desert Wine Tour, sought Council support for the 2016 event, which the organization hopes to build into an even larger event drawing additional visitors and generating increased revenue for the community.

Council will review the requests and information provided as it moves through the budget cycle. The 2016 budget is being presented to Council with a 1.97% increase to property taxes and an expected $2.32 million in property tax revenue.

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