Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen board members voted against a motion to bring forward a ‘standard of shared responsibility’ on servicing rural roads between the district and the provincial government.
The motion was proposed by Electoral Area D board member Tom Siddon.
If passed by board members, an agreement for a new rural roadside maintenance service and a joint funding agreement would have been proposed to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Siddon said the RDOS has “no teeth” in making sure that bylaws are enforced and that maintenance is done along ministry road right-of-ways in the region.
He took issue with signage on those right-of-ways, as well as squatters camping out for days at a time and a lack of grass cutting.
“I think we need an agreement, at the very least, with (the ministry) on who does what. What we can do and what they should do,” Siddon declared.
“And I’m only talking about rural communities… People there who pay taxes to the province, they don’t understand that we have no jurisdiction when they start phoning the director saying ‘well why don’t you do something about this?'”
The issue of road improvements in the region was also brought forward at last week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Board members collectively decided that the most feasible option currently is to ensure the ministry is held responsible for work being done, rather than to get involved and use additional funds for the service.
“It’s about measuring the work that’s getting done. And I don’t see this (motion) as getting to that root cause, I see this as another add-on to the taxpayer,” Penticton city councillor Andre Martin said.
“(The ministry) should be doing their job. And if they’re not doing their job, then their contract should be revisited. Doing this would just be letting them off the hook.”
RDOS Chair Karla Kozakevich, who represents Electoral Area E, said she suspects a new public service would need to be created if the motion were passed, which wouldn’t be in taxpayers’ best interest.
“It’s like charging folks twice on service.”
Kozakevich added that she meets twice a year with ARGO Road Maintenance, a company contracted by the ministry.
She sees them prior to the winter’s snowfall, and asks how they plan to take care of the roads in Naramata. After the winter, the two parties debrief to determine what went well and what didn’t.
“I started off by bringing an MLA, because I was so annoyed with the service,” she said. “I think it’s gotten a bit better. And it may be that each of us, as rural directors, need to take some additional steps.”
A total of 13 board members voted against the motion, but discussion on the right-of-ways issues is expected to continue at a later date, with the ministry involved.
“The very fact we’re having this discussion, I think should put (the ministry) on notice that they have to rethink their service levels,” Electoral Area F director Michael Brydon said. “We all pay a rural tax in rural areas, and it’s significant. And we don’t have control, we don’t have a say.
“Maybe now’s not the time… But I do think it’s interesting we’ve had this debate. Maybe we need to communicate to our MLAs better, if they even have a say on what goes on.”