Hopefully Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes gets the message loud and clear that Greater Vernon is speaking with one voice.
Today, Oakes will meet with elected officials from Vernon and the Regional District of North Okanagan who are frustrated that her ministry continues to block a borrowing referendum for a new ice sheet at Kal Tire Place.
RDNO had hoped to hold a referendum last November but it was scrapped because the ministry was concerned about the regional district borrowing money and making debt payments on a facility owned by the City of Vernon. While perhaps not ideal, the plan clearly reflected that rec facilities are owned by the city but they serve a broader base beyond city boundaries and those jurisdictions want to pay their fair share.
“It doesn’t make sense because all four jurisdictions signed off on the process,” said Akbal Mund, Vernon mayor, of the ministry’s reluctance.
The challenge is that while the ministry defends an undefendable decision, Civic Arena’s ice sheet could collapse at any time. That would mean a significant disruption to all ice users in Greater Vernon as Kal Tire Place and the Priest Valley Arena couldn’t absorb all of the activities. For many hockey players, they would be benched permanently.
Greater Vernon officials are trying to be proactive and ensure there is another sheet of ice before Civic must be abandoned, but Oakes’ ministry continues to stand in the way.
Time is running short for a borrowing referendum this spring, but it can be done if Oakes understands the severity of the situation and listens to the logical argument being presented by local officials.
We wish the Greater Vernon delegation good luck as they head to Victoria.