Electoral Area C director Paul Demenok responds to public claims around incorporation. (Google Maps)

Electoral Area C director Paul Demenok responds to public claims around incorporation. (Google Maps)

Opinion: CSRD director refutes claims about South Shuswap incorporation

Director’s Notes by CSRD Area C director Paul Demenok

Re: Letter, Cost of incorporation may be more than bargained for, in the Feb. 4 Shuswap Market.

In the last issue of Shuswap Market, a writer claimed costs of incorporation in Sorrento-Blind Bay may be more than bargained for because we have to pay a mayor and council, and they will need a place to work.

The writer doesn’t mention the incorporation study consultants have included appropriate budgets for mayor and council salaries and expenses and a new municipal hall based on what other communities have actually spent, and that these costs are already included in the tax notices in this study.

During the Incorporation Study Roundtable on Jan. 29, featuring mayors and a councilor from five communities who have undergone incorporation, several panelists described how their communities saved money and didn’t build new municipal halls for years, and instead used other less expensive office sites. The mayor from Clearwater proudly described how their municipal office combines a seniors centre, court services, medical services, BC government and social services, and private companies, and is a strong focal point of community pride as well as a cost-effective and convenient service provider.

The writer doesn’t mention there would be an election of a mayor and council before any such spending decisions are made. I would expect that candidate positions on spending and taxes might influence outcomes in the 2022 election. Could our community collectively decide to elect a council who want to cut taxes? Or, might our community prefer to elect a mayor and council who “want to get something done,” as verbalized by a panelist on Jan. 29? Either way, this decision is for an entire community to make based on being fully and fairly informed.

It’s wrong-headed to assume a council, which hasn’t even been elected yet, will just choose to waste taxpayer dollars.

The writer warns about road maintenance costs for a new municipality. These costs have also been factored in by the consultants, and substantial reserves of over $6,000,000 for our roads, would be created within five years.

The writer didn’t tell you that the province will continue managing our roads for five years after incorporation, at no charge (that’s worth over $5,000,000), and this would include repairing Blind Bay Road, if warranted.

By the way, did anyone happen to notice the new paving in Blind Bay and Sorrento last year?

Read more: Letter: Costs associated with South Shuswap incorporation may be more than bargained for

Read more: Letter: Regional district’s neutrality questioned on South Shuswap incorporation

Read more: OPINION: Respectful discussions around South Shuswap incorporation encouraged

The writer suggests a new municipality might have to cover costs of mitigative works on Newsome Creek. The writer doesn’t tell you there is no relationship between governance status and responsibility for disaster mitigation. While responsibility for disaster mitigation clearly remains an issue for debate in B.C., as stated by a judge in a landmark case, “…the Province has this responsibility…, and for good reason.” So, a court has ruled this is a provincial responsibility.

The writer complains about needing more policing with increasing numbers of campers and boaters and legal drug sales in our area, and that two or three officers won’t suffice. Do you see many police patrols in our area now? Is the writer arguing that we need more policing or is just against paying for more policing? Does the writer think we’re going to get more policing and then have someone else pay for it?

The writer complains about tax increases in Salmon Arm and Lake Country because of retroactive pay increases for the RCMP. Is he complaining about police being paid fairly, or is he complaining that the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) electoral area tax increases may be higher than in Salmon Arm and Lake Country in 2022? Of course, 2022 tax rates haven’t been finalized as yet at the CSRD.

In 2021, this writer claimed the incorporation study was rigged and suggested a conspiracy theory that the CSRD was pushing incorporation. What nonsense! As South Shuswap contributes the largest proportion of taxes collected by the CSRD, it makes no sense that the regional district would want this funding diminished.

The pertinent question for residents to consider is do we think we could do better, or not, than we are now with a locally elected mayor and council, by having our services provided by local staff out of a local office, by looking after our own roads, and by making decisions on our own?

The writer seems to be very focused only on the costs of incorporation, and not the benefits we could receive. Perhaps another question that should be asked is what will it cost all of us if we do not take prudent steps to upgrade and maintain our community on an ongoing basis? Or is that a problem to be passed down to those who move in after we leave because we just don’t care?

To learn more about the important options before you, and all the benefits and costs of incorporation, I would greatly encourage all residents of the South Shuswap to inform themselves by going to the best source of information, the CSRD website. All information on Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation is there, including videos of the open houses and the Jan. 29 panel discussion. Take the time to become fully informed!

Paul Demenok is the director for Electoral Area C (South Shuswap) with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

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