A candidate for director of Area E of the Regional District of Central Kootenay says he’d like to “refocus” the organization’s priorities.
Rick Marken says he’s concerned there is a “disconnect” between the services the regional district provides and the community’s needs.
“We need to focus on transparency, accountability, sustainability, security, and co-operation with business,” he says. “What we’ll end up with is a stronger, more vibrant and resilient community.”
Marken, 62, is a past chair of the Nelson and District Recreation Commission and helped campaign for the successful referendum that saw the community complex built in 2005.
He’s troubled by the $4.5 million the commission is now borrowing to upgrade the aquatic centre, although it isn’t the work itself that bothers him but the way the commission sought the money.
“I’m not saying the repairs aren’t necessary, because they absolutely are. It’s a health and safety issue and it has to be done. The procedure to get there is where I think we’re remiss.”
In the case of the aquatic centre, residents had no direct say in approving the expenditure because the five-year borrowing period was not subject to a counterpetition process.
Marken, however, is not a fan of counterpetitions, which he says result in “tax creep” and should be used sparingly. He also describes referendums as “cumbersome.”
Instead, he thinks the regional district should take a harder look at its expenditures and whether it needs to provide all of its 170 services.
He’d also like community representation returned to the rec commission, which is presently comprised exclusively of elected officials.
“I think it should have input from the people who use the aquatic centre, especially the swim club that’s adversely affected by the timing of this [renovation],” he says. “If the ice arena had an issue, the hockey players and figure skaters should be represented.”
The use of an out-of-town architect on the aquatic centre reno further concerns him. He wonders if someone local could have been hired and whether it’s necessary to use an architect for mechanical upgrades at all.
Marken also has doubts about a referendum to establish a conservation fund on Kootenay Lake. He wonders about its purpose when specific projects haven’t been identified. “Why are we doing that when other agencies deal with conservation? Do we need to spend that money when we don’t have an issue?”
He says priority areas for the regional district should include parks and recreation, fire and search and rescue, emergency preparedness, and waste management. He’d also like to work on rural transit.
“There’s been some good inroads made by past directors, but I think we can continue to improve transit,” he said.
Marken’s family has lived in the area for several generations. The Blewett resident, who is married with two sons, was raised at Mountain Station, and has also lived and worked in several other communities that make up Area E, including Balfour, Harrop, and Procter.
Through his property management business, Marken builds, buys, renovates and resells homes, putting him in regular contact with the regional district, where he says he receives “excellent service” from the building and mapping departments.
Previously, he worked for the federal government in environmental management and habitat protection. In addition to the rec commission, he has served on the Chamber of Commerce.
He’s also passionate about outdoor recreation as well as gardening, farming, and food security.
Marken faces two-term incumbent Ramona Faust in the November 15 election.