Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Zorka Kvestich: School board ignored electorate

The following appeared in the 24 July, 2008, edition of the Herald:

The School Board has not been fair. It thinks that two small meetings and a website was enough notification to tell the people about the new Pen High development and the demolition of the old school. Many people in Penticton are like me, retired, and do not use a computer. We expected our public officials to have our best interests in mind. However, it seems like the Board did not really want to hear from people like me, but we are taxpayers and want a say in assets that we believe are economical and can give many more years of valuable contribution to our community. The taxpayers should have a say on what happens to the north gym and auditorium. The Board has not accepted any suggestions that might include saving these buildings. They have not listened to the people that elected them. They are trying to destroy these structures in September just two months before the next civic election to avoid discussion and a possible referendum which would allow the majority to decide whether the buildings should be kept or not. The Board is actually asking a court to ignore the significant public opposition and allow the demolition of these buildings. This is unbelievable.

The taxpayers of town, many of whom are pensioners like myself, are already paying additional taxes because of the new South Okanagan Events Centre. I supported a referendum for this project after listening to the significant public discussion surrounding the proposal. A few years earlier, a plan to demolish the Memorial Arena was squashed by public input and the building was saved. The old arena is still giving excellent service to Penticton.

The Pen High development did not follow a similar excellent opportunity for public discussion. In fact, it actually appeared to be the opposite, with the School Board only informing the town what it was planning to do. The articles in the paper certainly suggested to me that the final choice about the gym and auditorium had already been made. I do not understand why two expensive buildings that we already own, with a small amount of renovation, cannot be utilized. It is the practical and economical solution to give our city much needed recreational and artistic venues. New facilities can be built later, with public support when the opportunity and funding is available.

I have attended scores of concerts in the auditorium while a member of the Okanagan Symphony and Community Concert Series. I watched my daughters during high school and now grand daughters playing basketball through the Penticton Basketball Camp in the gymnasium. I do not support destroying these facilities to make room for the parking lot of the new school. A new place can be found for parking, but these buildings cannot be easily replaced. I think that the Board has not represented the taxpayer’s best interests at all and should be held accountable in the next election. It is obligated to listen to the public and consider the practical alternatives that have been repeatedly made by concerned citizens and suffering taxpayers.

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