City of Vernon councillors vote in favour of deferring loans, insurance payments for the Historic O’Keefe Ranch, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, following year of financial struggles linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. (O’Keefe Ranch Facebook)

City provides financial relief for Vernon attraction

O’Keefe Ranch granted loan deferrals after year of financial strain brought on by COVID-19

The Historic O’Keefe Ranch has faced one of its most trying seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions and on Monday, Sept. 14, Vernon council offered some temporary relief to help the beloved attraction stay afloat.

Council voted in favour of deferring a $70,000 interest-free loan to the society and all annual property insurance recoveries between 2019 and 2021 until Dec. 31, 2022.

Coun. Kari Gares said acquiescing the request presented by the ranch’s society at the Aug. 17 meeting of council was “the least we can do.”

“At this point in time, they have no way to pay back it back,” Gares said. “It makes sense for us to extend that out for a few more years to relieve some of that pressure.”

But council voiced its displeasure that its regional partners aren’t assisting with the attraction that the North Okanagan benefits from.

“It’s bothers me that it’s not the RDNO (Regional District of North Okanagan) that’s doing this,” Coun. Kelly Fehr said.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal said this is an important conversation that needs to be brought up again with the city’s regional partners.

“The city has been funding since Day 1,” Coun. Akbal Mund said, noting the conversation between the RDNO and City of Vernon takes place annually. “Vernon residents have been carrying the tax load since Day 1. The society needs to go and say, ‘hey, we need support or we’re not going to survive.’”

Coun. Scott Anderson put forward a notice of motion, which will be discussed further at the Sept. 28 meeting, that could see the O’Keefe Ranch’s expected $50,000 2021 grant from the City of Vernon increase by $75,000, totalling $125,000.

READ MORE: North Okanagan ranch needs support to stay afloat

READ MORE: Protective covenant instated for Vernon heron rookery


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