Thursday, January 9, 2014

Readers write - Letter to Coldstream Mayor and Council

I will unfortunately be unable to attend the council meeting next Monday January 13 as Lil and I will be in Vancouver attending my brother Gary’s welcoming ceremony as a B C Supreme Court Judge.  We will be driving back to Coldstream on Monday after noon and evening and will arrive after the council meeting. Therefore I am sending you this memo to give you my thoughts on the proposed amalgamation of Vernon, Coldstream and certain areas of the Regional District.

Some of the people on the Greater Vernon Governance committee are individuals that I know personally and I have a great deal of respect for them.  Having said that and as a long term resident of Coldstream I must say that on this proposal of amalgamation I am in total disagreement.  These are my reasons:

1.   Cost savings – in my career as a Chartered Accountant spanning a total of 37 years I was involved in a number of amalgamations both in our firm and with clients.  In every case one of the main initial arguments for the amalgamation proposal was cost saving and greater efficiency.  In every case after the amalgamation had been accomplished in actual fact costs went up substantially.  New departments were created, additional staff hired and new levels of bureaucracy and frustrations were experienced.  Once new bureaucracies and departments are created it is absolutely impossible to get rid of them.  Based on my personal experience I don’t buy the cost saving argument at all.

2.   Operating efficiency – if the entire North Okanagan is amalgamated into one jurisdiction under Vernon one of the arguments is that there will be less politicians dealing with a much larger area.  This sounds good in theory however less politicians will mean much more work covering a much wider area for those that are elected and they will not have the local knowledge of the people and issues in Coldstream that the councillors in Coldstream do.

3.   Vernon’s Debt Load and Infrastructure Deficit (as noted in a recent Morning Star article quoting Mayor Rob Sawatzky).
– I do not think that we in Coldstream want to take on the additional taxes that will be required in becoming obligated for a share in Vernon’s debt load and infrastructure deficit

4.   Fire Departments – we will certainly lose our volunteer fire departments who do a wonderful job of serving Coldstream and Lavington.  Once we lose our volunteer fire departments our share of fire protection costs will certainly go up substantially.

5.   Community – in Coldstream we are fortunate to have a long history resulting in a unique sense of community and local culture.  We are all proud of our history and our unique community.  With amalgamation, over time we will just become an area of Vernon, our sense of identity and uniqueness of community will be lost.  Margaret Ormsby refers to this in her book “Coldstream Nulli Secundus”, that is Coldstream - Second to None.  We are a unique little “Jewell” and there is no other place like it. Agnes Sovereign and Paddy Mackie often referred to this in discussions with us over the years. As long time residents of Coldstream we understand this and appreciate it.

6.   Okanagan Landing – we are all aware that the forced amalgamation of the Okanagan Landing with the City of Vernon has been a “debacle” to say the least and there is no reason to believe that the same thing wouldn’t happen with Coldstream.

7.   Coldstream Municipal Staff – in my personal experience the staff in Coldstream are good people and good to deal with.  From the people in the office to the roads crew to the water crews and so on (all of whom I have dealt with over time) they are friendly, courteous and very prompt and helpful in getting the problem resolved in a friendly and effective manner.

8.   Coldstream Ranch – one of the great assets in Coldstream is the Coldstream Ranch.  We are all very fortunate that the current owner (as well as previous management and owners) Mr Keith Balcaen loves the ranch and loves ranching.  He is doing a great job in looking after the property and as a result we all enjoy beautiful vistas of green space and well cared for hay fields, corn fields and pastures.  In addition the Coldstream Ranch pays for and harvests the crops of many small acreages in the Coldstream enabling the owners to stay on their property, realize some income in order to pay irrigation water bills and maintain their farm status as well as keeping their properties green and in good shape.  These all add to beautiful vistas in Coldstream.  If the Coldstream Ranch were to be broken up and all of its lots were to be sold off there would be a huge change in the vistas and landscapes that we all currently enjoy and probably take for granted.  Without proper land management we are at risk of being overrun by Scotch Thistle, Knapweed, Burdock and other noxious weeds as well as many pests such as gophers etc. There are a few examples of this in Coldstream now where farming has ceased on some properties and I shudder to think what would happen if Coldstream were to be amalgamated into Vernon and the Coldstream Ranch were to become under the Vernon jurisdiction.

9.   Heritage – Coldstream has a tremendous heritage.  Those that came before us put a lot of time effort and money to build this municipality and make if what it is today.  If we were to amalgamate with the City of Vernon I fear that there would be a “deafening” roar coming out of the Coldstream Cemetery on Howe Drive as our forefathers all turn over in their graves in their disapproval of us allowing the destruction of what they worked so hard to create and preserve.

10.  Regional Services – Regional services such as water, recreation and so on are hugh expenditures and probably represent the largest portion of total costs in the North Okanagan.  These services are already amalgamated with good administration and proper oversight so there would be no advantage gained in these areas through amalgamation.

One thing the Greater Vernon Governance Committee is proposing is to have a study on amalgamation done.  I am not in favour of supporting a study either.  It is possible to get a study to conclude whatever you want depending on who requests the study and what assumptions are used.  If the Coldstream Council supports having a study done then it will be a signal that they are open to the idea of amalgamation and I think that Council should indicate that they are not open to amalgamation at all.  If the voters are unhappy with this they can of course run new candidates in Novembers election and if successful this will become a “self destruct” council.  I am told that the BC government will not force an amalgamation if the people in Coldstream do not want it.  I think we should send a strong message that we don’t want amalgamation.

Jim, you as Mayor and your fellow Councillors are doing a good job of looking after our best interests  and we appreciate what you are doing.  My wife and I would much prefer that we continue to be Coldstream and not amalgamated with the City of Vernon.  If a change were to occur our fear is that it will become “Urban Living at its Worst” rather than “Rural Living at its Best.”

Thank you Jim for taking the time to read my thoughts.  If you wish to share them with the other members of Council please go right ahead.

Good luck in your deliberations.

Bob and Lil Weatherill
January 8, 2014

Published with permission from the author.


Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. I hope this is printed in both the Morning Star, and elsewhere, especially in the Sun and Province. Perhaps CBC BC would post it on their website...

It is an education for those in other communities who face the threat of being absorbed by a large and hungry neighbor.

Now I can sleep soundly. There is no good rebuttal to Mr. Weatherill's case.

Anonymous said...

What a great letter, my thoughts exactly. No amalgamation for Coldstream and surrounding areas.

Anonymous said...

I agree with above. However, the Morning Star is biased and very selective on whose side/letter they print.
Sun, Province or CBC would be more likely to run with it but don't hold your breath.

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About Me

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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.