Mayor rings in new year with vision

Akbal Mund insists there must be a focus on infrastructure, including cultural and sports facilities.

Akbal Mund

Akbal Mund

Vernon’s mayor insists there must be an ongoing focus on infrastructure, and that includes cultural and sports facilities.

Akbal Mund says that if the community is to continue to grow and prosper, there must be an investment in amenities that attract new residents and investors.

“We have to look at the overall value of a community,” he said.

“We have facilities that the public uses and we need a game plan when they outlive their use. Yes things cost money but we need a vision. For people to live and move to Vernon, we need recreation facilities.”

Among the priorities is possibly moving to a borrowing referendum this spring to decommission the ice sheet at Civic Arena and expand Kal Tire Place.

“Civic is well past its time and we need to move forward. We know what the solution is,” said Mund, adding that twin sheets at Kal Tire Place will help promote Vernon as a destination for tournaments.

Mund also wants to see progress in Greater Vernon towards a new art gallery and museum.

“A community is not just sports and recreation, it’s arts and culture,” he said, adding that the art gallery and museum societies have been delayed enough over the years.

“Instead of promising, we need a plan to move ahead.”

And while it has been suggested that an art gallery be constructed on 31st Avenue and the existing museum be expanded, Mund isn’t tied to those locations.

“I’m always open to suggestions as to where we can build it,” he said, pointing out that he would consult with the user groups over locations.

As part of Vernon council’s priorities for 2015, Mund wants to see an expanded focus on the downtown core and what can be done to make it more viable.

“Council needs to sit down with the Downtown Vernon Association and look at any problems and solutions,” said Mund, adding that his goal is to separate fact from speculation when it comes to the  current status of downtown.

“Some businesses downtown are thriving and others aren’t.”

An ongoing complaint about downtown is the apparent lack of parking for customers, but Mund says he’s never had a problem finding a parking spot.

“Is it education about where you can park?” he said of the number of city-owned parking lots just a block or two off of main street.

The City of Vernon will also spend 2015 working with the Regional District of North Okanagan on determining the future of water after a $70 million borrowing referendum was defeated in November.

“We have to look at how to deal with it as a community. We can’t do nothing,” said Mund of meeting the Interior Health Authority’s water quality requirements.

Mund has only been mayor since Dec. 1, and he admits there will be a learning curve for a bit. However, he is confident about the year ahead and particularly with Vernon’s relationship with other local jurisdictions.

“When you go into a meeting, everyone cares about their particular area which is human nature, but you have to make a decision that is best for everyone,” he said.