City councillors will listen but not speak when West Kelowna residents are invited to talk about crime, drugs and other social problems plaguing the community.
A town hall meeting, hosted by the municipality, has been scheduled for 6-9 p.m. June 27 at the Westbank Lions Community Centre.
“Concerns have been expressed by the public and businesses regarding issues related to crime, vagrancy, open drug use and other unsavoury behaviour that is having a negative impact on the community, particularly in Westbank centre,” city administrator Jim Zaffino writes in a report to councillors.
“The objective of the town hall meeting is to allow residents and business owners the opportunity to express their concerns and provide possible solutions for council’s consideration,” Zaffino writes in his report.
Those who choose to speak at the meeting, other than guests specifically invited by the municipality, will have a maximum of two minutes to address councillors.
Councillors themselves are expected to remain silent.
“It is recommended that the role of council in this meeting be limited to receiving information and that council only seek clarification through the facilitator if needed,” Zaffino writes.
Council will confirm or reject plans for the town hall at a meeting Tuesday.
Earlier this month, West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom met with a group of business people who said they were frustrated with what they described as serious social problems in downtown Westbank.
The business people, who did not want to be identified because they feared a backlash, cited concerns such as drug use, fighting, aggressive begging, profanities, break-ins and people passed out on park benches.
“If this town wants to exist, you better get a business strategy. (The) people that pay the taxes don’t want the bums,” said one building owner. “It’s quite simple. It kills business.”
The City of West Kelowna has recently contracted with a private security firm to provide patrols in Westbank, but he noted mental-health issues, addiction problems and housing for the homeless are mainly the responsibility of the provincial government.
“We’re going to do our best as a municipality to deal with it,” Milsom told the business owners.