The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has made some changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but these have been less pronounced than those made by municipalities in the South Okanagan and Similkameen. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has made some changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but these have been less pronounced than those made by municipalities in the South Okanagan and Similkameen. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen holding steady despite COVID-19 pandemic

Virtual meetings continue, but office and staff remain busy

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a minimal impact on operations at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, the chief administrative officer says.

Bill Newell said the global pandemic has affected the regional district much less than it has affected municipalities around the province.

In early April, two senior manager positions were terminated as a result of the pandemic, and in summer, the staff in charge of parks and trail maintenance were not hired until the parks and trails were reopened to the public.

READ ALSO: Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen cuts two positions

READ ALSO: Stay away from landfills, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen urges

However, because the regional district does not have large recreation facilities, further layoffs were not needed.

Elsewhere in the region and in the province, staff working at pools, arenas and other facilities were laid off or terminated since the facilities were closed to the public.

The regional district has not experienced revenue flow problems either.

Newell explained that regional districts do not collect taxes in the same way as municipal governments.

Instead, the regional district sends a request to the province to collect taxes on its behalf.

“We got our money on time,” he said. “We believe we are going to be fine as far as revenue goes.”

Newell added that the regional district’s building and development counters have been busy during the pandemic, since many people are taking on home renovation projects during this time.

The landfills are also busy, he said.

Regional district staff have noticed an increase in the number of people visiting landfills as early as March, when pandemic measures first took effect. At the time, directives were issued, urging people to practice physical distancing and not to use the landfills if feeling sick.

The most noticeable change for the regional district is the structure of board meetings. Since the pandemic began, meetings have been held virtually rather than in person.

Newell said the board room is not big enough to allow all 19 directors and regional district staff to attend a meeting and still follow physical distancing protocols.

For meetings where public participation is required, the board is renting space. However, Newell said meeting changes will likely remain in place for some time.

“We’re going to be making some procedural improvements,” he said.

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