O'Keefe Ranch is owned by the City of Vernon.

O'Keefe Ranch is owned by the City of Vernon.

Extra time given to O’Keefe Ranch

City of Vernon expects business plan and financial statements for historic site

A historic site is being put on a tight leash.

Vernon council decided Monday to give O’Keefe Ranch an additional year of full subsidy.

“O’Keefe is a true museum and not just a tourist attraction,” said Coun. Catherine Lord, a former ranch manager.

“It needs a little more time to get on solid ground.”

The ranch, which is owned by the city, currently receives $150,000 a year from taxpayers.However, it was decided in 2013 that the grant would be reduced to $100,000 in 2017, $50,000 in 2018 and $10,000 in 2019.

The reduction in subsidy will now begin in 2018.

Coun. Scott Anderson wants to give the ranch more time to improve its finances.

“It’s something we can’t lose. It’s the epicentre of this region’s history,” he said.

In 2015, 26,474 people passed through the gate, a 21 per cent increase, while more events have been added to the schedule.

“It’s not a business, it’s a heritage site,” said Coun. Brian Quiring.

“They have done a good job of moving the ranch forward.”

However, opposition to continuing the full subsidy for a year came from Coun. Bob Spiers and Mayor Akbal Mund.

Mund says the ranch has been making enough money to purchase vehicles and hire staff.

“We are supporting a group without financial statements and I have a problem with that,” he said.

Lord had originally called for two more years of a full subsidy but that was trimmed to one year.

“There is some merit to holding their feet to the fire to get the deliverables we want,” said Quiring.

Council is demanding financial statements and a business plan from the ranch.

The city will also approach other North Okanagan jurisdictions to see if they will help fund the ranch in Spallumcheen.

“I see it as a regional asset,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

“It should be promoted at the regional district as a function and everyone supports the ranch.”