By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

The Shuswap Band council is focusing on how to steer the bands finances straight.

Were trying to get a handle on where were in the red, and try to thank people that we owe money to for being so patient, said Chief Barb Cote. The Shuswap Band will be known for paying its bills.

Because of the previous administrations efforts, the band now collects $700,000 annually in revenue through the administration of commercial leasing on reserve land. Last Novembers election brought two new faces Tim Eugene and Rosalita Pascal onto the three-member council. Ms. Cote was the only returning councillor, and subsequently was elected chief.

We have directed the money back to the band, Mr. Cote said. Members will be receiving royalties that we hadnt before.

Before fully realizing those royalties, the Shuswap Band has to pay back what it owes, which Ms. Cote predicts will take about three years.

With whatever money we have coming in, we have to decide a repayment schedule for the debt, Mr. Eugene said.

For the first time after taking office, the new chief and council planned a public meeting last weekend. However, the tragic death of a young Shuswap member forced the meetings postponement.

Well be asking community members for feedback as to what they want chief and council to do, Ms. Cote said.

One prominent idea is an upgrade and extension of the reserves water system that could eventually generate revenue, she said.

Since the band has begun reconstruction of its finances, two band employees public relations representative Gordon Martin and the chief executive officer of the Kinsbasket Development Corporation Dean Martin have been suspended from their roles since November and December respectively.

Members of the band office have been advised to cease communications with them, as well as with former Chief Paul Sam and former councillor Alice Sam.

That was under the direction of our lawyer, Ms. Cote said.

Two cheques totalling $50,000 issued to Gordon Martin just prior to the November election are under internal investigation. Stop payments on the cheques by the band are being contested by Mr. Martin, who claims he needed a portion of the funds to repair the broken furnace in his home.

As Mr. Martin wasnt able to fund the repairs, the band hired a technician to fix the furnace after it was reported to the Shuswap office, but Mr. Martin told The Pioneer the service wasnt effective.

Ms. Cote said that, along with the Martins family home, there are 17 other homes on the reserve that are due for a new furnace.

Its terrible that its been left this long, she said, adding that a federal grant program may be available to address the problem. Were looking for additional funding and were going to replace the furnaces in all 18 homes.

The band is hopeful that funding for home heating will be received before April, she said.