Vernon antes up for ranch bill

A sudden flow of cash may keep O’Keefe Ranch from having to dig deep for an outstanding bill.

Vernon council decided Tuesday to contribute $12,000 towards fees the historic site has not paid the North Okanagan Regional District for a water line.

“The finance committee will find a source for the funds and let’s get the water turned on,” said Coun. Bob Spiers.

The line was constructed last year to improve water pressure for fire protection, but NORD has refused to connect the system because of hook-up fees.

NORD states the fees could range from $13,000 to $17,000.

The regional district says it has no ability to waive the fees so member jurisdictions have been asked to contribute funds towards the fees. Once that occurs, the ranch would be responsible for the remainder.

Coldstream is giving $600 while $2,500 is coming from Areas B and C.  With the city’s grant, there may be nothing left of the bill for the ranch to cover.

Most other North Okanagan jurisdictions have decided not to participate. That has upset Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe, who insists the city-owned ranch preserves local history and enhances the economy.

“To pretend it’s a Vernon issue is complete crap,” said O’Keefe.

O’Keefe also took aim at NORD for charging fees in the first place.

“Volunteer labour has done the whole thing (install the line) and this devalues volunteer labour. They are told to be self-sufficient and then we hold them back,” she said of the regional district’s actions.

“Because of bipartisan politics, it’s being held up.”

Mayor Wayne Lippert defended NORD staff for following bylaws that state fees can’t be waived.

“Staff is doing its job and treating them like a developer,” he said,

But that explanation still didn’t sit well with O’Keefe.

“It’s a non-profit society and to treat them the same as a developer is interesting,” she said.