INVERMERE — A debate about a fee-for-service agreement turned into a defense of a suddenly-controversial volunteer group during District of Invermere council’s most recent meeting.
The Lake Windermere Ambassadors will receive a $10,000 fee-for-service annually from the District of Invermere for its water monitoring activities, as well as public education and outreach work in support of the Lake Windermere Management plan.
The fee is similar to one paid to other groups who carried out water testing for the community before it became a responsibility of the Ambassadors, says mayor Gerry Taft.
While council signed off on the agreement unanimously, Taft and councillor Al Miller used the discussion to attempt to deflect criticism the group has received over its part in the Lake Windermere Management Plan implementation — mainly based around its financial links to environmental group Wildsight.
Taft said the group has “an autonomous board that has a diverse representation of people throughout the city,” and added the group won’t determine how the management plan is rolled out, or what planning changes are put in place.
The district and the Regional District of East Kootenay have drawn criticism over the early stages of the plan’s implementation, with some charging the governments haven’t given lake users — and second home owners in particular — enough input on proposed changes.
“There still seems to be a persistent rumour or belief among a small group of people… that there’s some plan to ban boats or restrict watercraft,” added Taft. “And I think it’s important to note that there’s no jurisdictional way to make that happen.”
Miller also spoke in support of the Ambassadors, but added he’s hoping the two districts will find a way to get second homeowners more involved in the lake management process.
“If they don’t show up, at least we’ve tried.”