They knew it was in trouble. But were shocked by how much trouble.
Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) directors reacted at their monthly meeting Wednesday, Nov. 15, to the announcement of the permanent closure of the SPCA branch in Vernon off Old Kamloops Road on Friday, Nov. 17.
The Vernon community animal centre is being shut down due to a number of ongoing structural integrity issues, the BC SPCA said in a release issued Wednesday.
“We have been aware of growing concerns related to the building’s foundation, walls, and ceiling, but a recent inspection by a structural engineer has also revealed significant issues with the roof that would put the safety of staff, volunteers, animals and members of the public at risk if we keep operating from the facility,” said Craig Daniell, BC SPCA chief executive officer.
“Simply repairing the roof would not be a viable solution for the long-term future of the building, as the more than 35-year-old building is located on a former landfill site which is causing the subsidence and cracking of the facility.
The regional district owns the property and buildings.
“We’ve known that the building has limped along as long as they could over the years,” said Lumby Mayor and former board chair Kevin Acton, who said the RDNO last heard from the local SPCA “three or four years ago.”
RDNO general manager of strategic and community services Ian Wilson said staff only found out about the planned closure on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
“What we’ve heard is there are a variety of factors leading to the closure, and the building is one of them,” said Wilson. “They’ve chosen to bolster the Salmon Arm branch. They will still have a local coordinator but they will be sending animals to other areas.”
Salmon Arm and Kelowna are the two closest BC SPCA facilities to Vernon.
“We are working with them (BC SPCA) moving forward, but this will be challenging for us,” said RDNO rural services manager Andrew Hunsberger. “We have also asked for a copy of the engineer’s report.”
No requests for any help was made to RDNO by the local centre or provincial branch.
“There’s a whole series of issues this creates,” said Electoral Area B director Bob Fleming. “But when we have one day’s notice, it’s hard to do much.”
Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming would like a staff report telling directors why the facility is closing and what happens next for the property.
“Now what for our own facilities, the property,” said Cumming, whose motion for a staff report was seconded and supported unanimously by directors.
Daniell stressed that the BC SPCA remains committed to serving the animal welfare needs for the region.
“Many of the programs and services in place in Vernon, such as animal protection, youth education and community support initiatives, are already regionally based and we are exploring opportunities to further support the community moving forward.”
Any animals remaining in the BC SPCA’s care at the time of the closure will be transferred to the surrounding community animal centres, whose capacities are each being increased to support sheltering activities for the community.
Construction of a new facility in Vernon is not in the works, but there are plans for a new replacement facility in Salmon Arm.