A decision is still pending on additional funding of $95,000 requested to complete construction of the new Vernon Pickleball courts. (Morning Star files)

GVAC debates $100,000 land acquistion fund

Vernon city councillor Bob Spiers an opposing voice

It represented only 1.2 per cent of the budget but it inspired the most heated debate at the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee’s 2018 parks, recreation and cultural budget meeting on Monday.

The point of irritation was $100,000 being set aside for future land acquisition, with Vernon city councillor Bob Spiers leading the debate against it.

The GVAC was told it was a prudent move to assure the regional district is in a position to act when future land, recreation or cultural development opportunities arise.

“If we did not have funding like this in place, it would have been difficult to go forward when the Okanagan Rail Trail opportunity presented itself. It would be difficult to do that today,” noted David Sewell, chief administrative officer for the Regional District of the North Okanagan.

Spiers argued large scale projects should go to referendum for funding approval.

“I don’t think you should build up funding without consent from the public,” Spiers said.

Mike Macnabb, Area C director, was puzzled why a logical step for future planning with such a minimal impact on the budget was being opposed.

“You have to start somewhere and every contribution helps build up a fund like that. The Regional District of Central Okanagan has built up a war chest of funding for this over the years to do what they have done,” Macnabb said.

“I would be reluctant to not have something going towards future land acquisition.”

Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor, said he was okay with the funding, but wanted to see a detailed strategy for how that money might be spent.

“I would like to see a plan or strategy for how we would spend that money,” Garlick said.

The board ultimately voted to not fund the land acquisition fund, pending further discussion and exploring a possible strategy policy for how that money is spent.

Otherwise, the GVAC had little disagreement over the 2018 proposed operating budget of $4,359,146, up from $3,959,601 in 2017, adopting all capital improvement projects for the coming year with some adjustments to initial funding requests.

One example was the Vernon Public Art Gallery, which requested an eight per cent hike to its $185,200 operating grant, but will have to settle for a 2.2 per cent increase.

Macnabb said the art gallery needs to look for more ways, such as general admission fees which are currently collected by donation, to help off-set operating costs.

“It can be a small nominal admission charge but anything helps to save on costs,” Macnabb said.

“These days we all have to be accountable for how tax dollars are spent.”

It was noted that special art gallery exhibits do charge an admission fee, and that admission rates will be part of the revenue structure for a proposed new cultural centre in Vernon that combines the art gallery and Greater Vernon Museum & Archives.

The budget also included a previously approved commitment of $150,000 for construction of a new pickleball facility at Marshall Field.

Related: Pickleball process moves ahead

However, the Vernon Pickleball Association had requested in December a further $95,000 in funding to complete the project, but staff had not yet received all the information requested by the RDNO board before a decision is made.

Other projects on the books for this year include:

* $149,000 increase to trail and open space park operations and maintenance for Grey Canal Trail, Okanagan Rail Trail, Swan Lake Nature Reserve, Kal Crystal Trail, BX Ranch Trail, Goose Lake, Middleton Mountain, BX Creek Trail, North Vernon Park and Crane Road Park.

* $42,000 increase for museum maintenance and utilities recovering

* $150,000 for BX Falls Trail bridge repairs and trail realignment

* $50,000 for BX Falls Trail parking lot upgrades

* $25,000 for parks and trails utility vehicle

* $20,000 for Greater Vernon Athletics Park sand field improvements

* $150,000 Vernon Community Arts Centre washroom upgrade

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