West Bench

West Bench: Traditionalists versus Industrialists

Just in case you think the stakes are low in an OCP review, I thought I should make everyone aware of an emerging controversy on the West Bench: Traditionalists versus Industrialists. Although both views are complex and serious, I can sketch them as follows:

Neighborhoods: 

West Bench Hill Road

Here we go again: Anyone who doubts the instability of West Bench soils should take a look at the new dip on West Bench Hill Road.  This dip is in a slightly different place than the previous large dip.  A few things to know about this problem:

Message from the West Bench Elementary Parents Advisory Committee (PAC)

Dear West Bench Community,

We have an important opportunity to let the BC gov’t know why our community school is important, and why it deserves long-term stable funding.

By the Jan. 9th deadline, the provincial gov’t has invited all community members to contribute their thoughts on the importance of our school to children and as a community asset. The responses go directly to a task force currently designing a new funding model for schools such as ours.

Please visit: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/ruraleducation/ to participate in the survey called “A Conversation about Rural Education”.

The survey contains 4 questions.

Cattle guard is gone

The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure removed the Bartlett cattle guard today.  We asked on behalf of some residents but it was MoTI's decision.

The cattle guard was completely unnecessary due to the PIB's new fence configuration and cattle guard adjacent to the Westhills Aggregates entrance (see previous posting).  Ours was a cattle guard with no fence attached to it. It did absolutely zero to stop the horses.  Instead it was just a nuisance for motorists, cyclists, and nearby residents alike.

On the positive side, it served as a pretty effective speed bump and waker-upper (especially on frosty mornings if you hit it while still cornering).  Hopefully folks will continue to moderate their speed as they approach the intersection with Lambert.

West Bench metered water rates

A study of potential approaches to metered water pricing was provided at the September 15th RDOS Environment and Infrastructure Committee meeting.  I extracted pages from my own marked-up copy of the board report:

West Bench water rate structure review

The consultant recommends a 30% variable + 70% fixed rate with a farm rate.  Public information sessions will be held on this issue in early November.  Standby for more information.

Neighborhoods: 

Does the West Bench Elementary Subsidy Proposal lead to Two Tiers?

School District 53 “flatly rejected" a proposal from the Town of Osoyoos to help subsidize Osoyoos Secondary School.  The Osoyoos proposal was similar to the West Bench proposal in that local government offered to use local tax dollars to keep a school open.  SD53 provided the following rationale in its letter to Mayor Sue McKortoff rejecting the town’s offer,

The proposal you have made is not consistent with the spirit and intent of the School Act funding provisions which are aimed at providing equal access to educational programs for all […] Students in communities with the ability and willingness to contribute monies in addition to assessed school taxes would gain significant advantages over students in communities which could not provide these funds.

The economic case for a West Bench Elementary subsidy

It sounds like the Board of Education will seriously consider the RDOS proposal for a local subsidy for West Bench Elementary.  The next question is: Will West Bench residents seriously consider it?  I have heard several residents say that they have absolutely no interest in paying a new tax.  I am certainly sympathetic to this view.  After all, my own kids are past the elementary age and the fate of the school is no longer my problem.  But I think this view misrepresents our true situation.  Our choice is not between business as usual and a new tax.  Rather, our choice is between one significant cost and another.  On March 30, 2016—the day the Board of Education voted to close West Bench Elementary—every house in the West Bench Elementary catchment lost

WBE Closure: Request for reconsideration

As noted in my update to the grant proposal, I was caught off-guard by the Board of Education's dismissal of the RDOS offer.  I assumed this was going to proceed in a very straightforward way:

  1. A rural school will not be considered for closure if it has a ~$150K grant
  2. The RDOS can raise such a grant for West Bench Elementary
  3. West Bench Elementary will not be considered for closure

 

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