Ministry delays arena plan

The provincial government insists it’s not being obstructionist when it comes to a new arena

The provincial government insists it’s not being obstructionist when it comes to a new arena.

The Regional District of North Okanagan received word from the Ministry of Community Development Tuesday that it won’t sign off on a borrowing referendum to replace Civic Arena as an ice sheet and twin Kal Tire Place.

“The ministry continues to work with the City of Vernon and the Regional District of North Okanagan in respect of the ice sheet project in Greater Vernon,” states the ministry in an e-mail.

“When a decision on the matter is provided to the two jurisdictions, we anticipate a decision will be made to communicate that to the public.”

It is the second time RDNO’s plans for a referendum have met with resistance in Victoria.

“We’re all surprised because we followed the process they suggested,” said Juliette Cunningham, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chairperson, of the second round of concerns being raised.

“Everything that was sent to them was what they recommended.”

RDNO hoped to hold a borrowing referendum in November 2014 but the provincial government blocked that process because Kal Tire Place is owned by the City of Vernon.

The new strategy was for the regional district to borrow the funds and own the twinned ice sheet at Kal Tire Place. A long-term lease would place it in the hands of the city, which would take over ownership in 20 years.

However, the ministry appears to still have concerns about RDNO borrowing money for a facility that will eventually be owned by the city.

The regional district will consider its next steps.

“We’re trying to find common ground (with the ministry). We’re still hopeful,” said David Sewell, chief administrative officer.

“They have not said no but they have not said yes. They’ve asked for additional information.”

While the process for a potential referendum proceeds, the lifespan of Civic Arena, which was built in the 1930s, remains in doubt.

“It’s a challenge for us because Civic is no longer suitable for an ice surface,” said Cunningham.

“Taxpayers should have an opportunity to support this (new ice sheet) or not and we’re not even being given the opportunity. The demand for ice is still there.”