The reality of being the fastest growing municipality in BC is not lost on Council, staff and the community. Just over five years ago, Council was told that our roads were in dire need of renewal, repair and maintenance. After all, we have 200 kms of roads, which, for a population one tenth that of Kelowna, is humongous, as my son would say. Our residents want roads that are safe and in good conditions so that they can drive or walk around without the concerns that someone may hit a pedestrian as it has happened a couple of times in the last few years.
The loss of Josie Evans in a bizarre accident on Bottom Wood Lake Road in January 2010, was a wake up call for the whole community and the effort that staff has put into finding solutions for all users since then is making a difference. After much work that has spanned the course of the last five years, Council has approved the Transportation for Tomorrow Plan with the aim to take care of road safety, driving, and walking conditions. The program has an initial life span of 20 years with a total cost of $62 million. The District is already spending $1.6 million a year in road works and another $1.5 million in road maintenance for a total of $3.1 million a year for roads and transportation. However, it needs another $1.5 million a year to make the road works sustainable or, in other words, to reverse the wear and tear of our current road infrastructure. In the last few months, Council has dealt with the issue of how to fund this $1.5 million gap and finally decided in November that $350,000 would come from the federal Gas Tax allotment that is given annually to our municipality. The rest ($1.15 million) has to come from the taxpayers. In order to raise the necessary funding to reach the required level to finance the 20-year plan, Council decided to levy a parcel tax of $125 a year starting in 2016, and to make three further adjustments in 2017, 2018, and 2019 by increasing property taxes of approximately 1.8% each year. This combined approach is intended to apply as fairly as possible to all categories of taxpayers, recognizing that there is no such thing as a perfect fiscal system.
The reaction to the overall plan and the new levy has been generally positive. As I said, one cannot always make everybody happy. However, people in general approve of Council’s move as they experience driving and walking around Lake Country and some of the challenges that come with our roads. Plus, this will increase the number of projects that the District will be able to complete in a year. Starting in 2016 (this year), the District of Lake Country will be able to tender the following projects:
- Safe Routes to School – Greenhow Pathway (Oyama)
- Safe Routes to School – Sherman Road Improvements (Winfield)
- Safe Routes to School – Woodsdale Road Improvements (Winfield)
- Safe Routes to School – Bottom Wood Lake Road, from Berry to Lodge Improvements (Winfield)
- Carr’s Landing Road Improvements (Carr’s Landing)
This represents twice as many road projects compared to last year. In addition, design will be done for the following projects for the 2017 construction season:
- Bottom Wood Lake Road from Berry to Beaver Lake Road
- Robinson Road from Pretty Road to Okanagan Centre Road East
- Davidson Road from Camp Road to McGowan Road
Council has shown much leadership in moving ahead with this plan. This decision was made with future generations in mind. All long term planning done so far in the District has revealed a desire for community members to see work done that would benefit not only them but their children and their children’s children. Lake Country is one of the few municipalities in BC (and even in Canada) that has been able to do that. $125 a year is a very reasonable price to pay for this accomplishment.