City trims grant for O’Keefe Ranch

The belt may have to be tightened a few notches at O’Keefe Ranch.

The belt may have to be tightened a few notches at O’Keefe Ranch.

The historic site had sought a $184,500 operating grant from its owner, the City of Vernon, but council has only approved $138,000. It will also cover $12,000 in insurance.

“It means the ranch will have an extremely difficult time meeting the budget,” said Doug Hackman, an O’Keefe Ranch Society director.

Hackman isn’t sure what measures will be needed to make up the financial shortfall.

“We’ll try to keep this thing going but it will be difficult. We’ve cut our costs as low as possible. If you cut marketing, there goes our tourism,” he said.

“The staff we hire during the summer season may have to be cut but if we do that, we’re not providing a service to tourists.”

According to Hackman, there is an element of uncertainty when operating the historic site and the city’s grant provides financial stability.

“We know what our expenses are but we have a difficult time predicting what revenue will be,” he said.

“If there is a forest fire or bad weather, people may not come (through the gate).”

Coun. Patrick Nicol believes it was necessary to provide assistance to O’Keefe Ranch.

“They’ve done a great job as a group out there,” he said.

“It’s a city asset and we’ve invested a lot of money there in the past.”

However, Nicol could not support the ranch’s full grant request of $184,500.

“We’re trying to find ways to save dollars,” he said of financial pressures facing the city during its budget process.

“We’ve denied a lot of requests here. It (ranch) is our biggest grant item.”

Coun. Bob Spiers opposed the grant, saying it is unacceptable that Vernon taxpayers only bear the cost of supporting the ranch.

“This should be a provincial, federal or regional responsibility,” said Spiers.

Vernon Morning Star