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Vernon council boosts O’Keefe Ranch grant

Proposed increase of $75K passed through council by one vote margin
Vernon’s Historic O’Keefe Ranch has found the means to stay open for weekends through October and possibly for its operations in December, the ranch said Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. The ranch with more than 150 years of history has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. ((O’Keefe Ranch/Facebook)

The Historic O’Keefe Ranch will receive a city grant of $125,000 in 2021 as extra COVID-19 relief.

The one-time boost of $75,000 to the ranch’s $50,000 city grant, put forward by Coun. Scott Anderson, barely scraped by council with a 4-3 vote Sept. 28.

“COVID has really knocked the wind out of their sails,” Anderson said of the ranch. “Like everyone, they had to close their doors.”

The historic gem been struggling to keep its head above water in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as programming was reduced and events were cancelled. Although recognized by all of council as a unique asset to the community, some said they were concerned the ranch has become a burden on Vernon taxpayers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already cost the ranch nearly $125,000 in operational costs, albeit that figure may be an underestimation, according to the rationale provided to council.

“I’ve been a huge advocate (for the ranch), but at what point do we draw the line and say enough is enough,” Coun. Dalvir Nahal said, acknowledging the significant progress the ranch has made over the years. “It’s the Vernon taxpayers that are footing the bill over and over again, it’s hard to keep dumping money into it.”

Coun. Kari Gares said its critical to get the city’s regional partners on board.

“We all need to agree to keep history alive,” Gares said. “I don’t think (the ranch’s) situation is going to get any better as long as COVID is going to rear its ugly head.”

Coun. Brian Quiring reminded his council colleagues the request to increase the $50,000 grant by $75,000 is directly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related provincial health orders.

“We have invested money to try to keep the ranch open to the tune of $45,000,” Quiring said. “Now they’re open weekends and giving it everything they’ve got. I don’t see this as the year that we wouldn’t support them.”

“We’ve got to stop talking about how expensive they’ve been,” Quiring said. “The ranch is turning it around.”

Before the pandemic struck in March, the ranch was moving forward, Anderson said, and has continued to do so throughout the health crisis in its own efforts to raise funds, such as its campaign to Fill the Steer.

Anderson said the ranch was in the midst of a transitional phase when COVID-19 hit hard and the $75,000 boost will help keep the ranch afloat until 2021.

“And I hope that next year the situation is alleviated a little bit,” he said.

Councillors Anderson, Nahal, Quiring and Mayor Victor Cumming voted in favour of the one-time increase of $75,000.

Anderson’s successful motion will also see active members introduce and support a request for a reasonable financial contribution from the Regional District of North Okanagan.

READ MORE: Support keeps Vernon’s O’Keefe Ranch afloat through fall

READ MORE: 105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols


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