O’Keefe Ranch can’t avoid an unpaid bill.
The North Okanagan Regional District board decided Wednesday to ask member jurisdictions if they will help pay outstanding fees for a water line to the historic site in Spallumcheen. However, the portion of the $15,000 to $20,000 bill that isn’t covered by taxpayers will be the responsibility of the ranch.
“It’s a tourist business like any other business or society and they have the ability to go out and raise funds,” said director Kevin Acton.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing the ranch. If the City of Vernon (which owns the ranch) wants the service, the city should pay for it.”
The line, which extended the Duteau Creek source to the ranch, was constructed last year but NORD has refused to connect the system because of the fees.
Ranch officials had asked that the fees be waived but that isn’t possible.
“By bylaw, we must charge a connection fee,” said David Sewell, finance general manager.
There is the possibility that much of the bill could be left for the ranch to absorb as Enderby, Lumby and three electoral areas have refused to participate.
Coldstream is giving $600 while $2,500 is coming from Areas B and C. No decision has come from Vernon, Armstrong or Spallumcheen.
Not everyone is satisfied with the approach taken by the majority of the regional district board.
“It’s important to find a way to cover the costs,” said Buffy Baumbrough, one of four directors who opposed the board decision.
“They don’t have adequate funding to cover the costs. It’s a small amount of money and it will make sure the asset is protected by providing sufficient flows for fire protection.”