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March 23, 2010

HOSPITAL CLOSES EMERGENCY ROOM

Councillor Marilyn Harkness told Town Council at the March 15 meeting that the Emergency Department at Princeton General Hospital would be closed from 8:00 PM Friday, March 19, to 8:00 AM Saturday, March 20. She had attended a meeting to discuss partial and full day closures expected at the hospital due to a shortage of physicians.

Councillor Harkness stated that the closures might have been worse but Dr. Michael Jeanes of Keremeos would be covering a few days.

She exhibited a poster which advised people to call 911 if the local Emergency Department is closed, or visit the Emergency Department in Penticton Regional Hospital. The poster recommends calling 250.295.3233 to be sure there is no assistance in Princeton before driving to Penticton. The poster further advises calling 811 (HealthLink BC) if you are unsure of the services you need. The 811 service is available 24/7.

Mayor Randy McLean added comments about the high cost of bringing in locum physicians, which has been going on for the past couple of years. He said Interior Health is doing all it can to recruit more physicians for Princeton but suggest now is the time for every Princeton area resident to try to recruit physicians through personal contacts.

He said people who know of a doctor looking for a rural practice, or just about to finish medical training, should encourage that doctor to consider moving to Princeton.

In the meantime, Princeton area residents are left wondering whether a doctor will be on duty if there is an emergency.

MINISTER TURNS DOWN MAYOR

The Minister of Forests and Range received a request from Mayor Randy McLean to drop the high stumpage rates for timber from the South Okanagan area now that the Okanagan Falls sawmill has been closed and torn down. The issue is the Point of Appraisal (POA) stumpage rate.

The closer the timber is to a sawmill, the higher the stumpage rate. Mayor McLean pointed out to the Minister that timber from the South Okanagan is now hauled much longer distances.

Mayor McLean's letter made little impact. The appraisal policy requires five years to pass before any changes are made, and the POA for the South Okanagan area in question will not expire until November 30, 2012. The Minister suggested Mayor McLean submit his ideas at that time.

TOPS ASKS FOR AQUATIC CENTRE

At the March 15 Town Council meeting, Mayor Randy McLean responded to a letter sent to Town Council requesting construction of an aquatic centre for Princeton. He says he hears this request verbally from at least one person every week.

TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is one of the many local groups encouraging Council to go ahead with the construction of an aquatic centre. Their letter cited many benefits to the health of local residents. Council did not disagree with any of the contents of the letter but felt people did not understand the process Council must follow before any construction could begin.

Some people thought the $100,000 GamesTown prize would guarantee the construction of the aquatic centre. That money is just a drop in the pool.

Councillor Frank Armitage noted the aquatic centre proposal had been reviewed and a cost estimate puts the project between $6 million and $10 million. Debt repayment and operating costs would amount to $1.6 million a year. This could raise property taxes by as much as $100 a year.

Town Council would have to go to referendum to find out whether local property owners would be willing to have their taxes raised to that extent. If local property owners voted in favour, then Town Council would have to secure a loan, go to tender and select a contractor before construction could begin.

"It doesn't happen overnight," Councillor Armitage stated.

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