Vernon council will host a town hall-type meeting on downtown problems in the next 30 days after debating nearly 90 minutes how the meeting will run. (Black Press - file photo)

Vernon council moves closer to town hall meeting on downtown woes

Council debated nearly 90 minutes Monday on meeting format; meeting will be held in next 30 days

A town-hall-style meeting lasting three hours will be hosted by Vernon council.

It took nearly half that long to determine what the meeting would look like Monday.

Before council was a motion directing staff to format the meeting which will provide Vernon residents and business owners the ability to direct concerns or issues relating to crime, vagrancy and open drug use, whereby there is a negative impact on the downtown core and surrounding neighbourhoods. That will be the subject of the meeting.

Council voted unanimously on the subject matter, the venue (a city-owned building, possibly the Vernon Performing Arts Centre or Vernon Recreation Centre auditorium), the hours for the meeting, the allotted time for each public speaker (two minutes), no presentations from the public and advertising the meeting via social media and other regular means, like in The Morning Star.

The meeting will be held in the next 30 days from Monday’s meeting, so on or before June 12. That was passed unanimously.

What drew considerable discussion during the 90-minute debate was council’s role in the meeting and who will facilitate it.

Coun. Kari Gares, who originally called for the meeting, hoping to find solutions to the downtown problems that haven’t been brought forward yet, said council’s role will be simple.

“Listen, and seek clarification (on points and questions) if required,” said Gares. That point was passed unanimously by council.

As for the facilitator – whose role will be to make sure the meeting runs smoothly, write things down in point form and do a follow-up report on the town hall – Coun. Kelly Fehr said the meeting will be the third time the city will be hearing and gathering information on the same topics.

“We’ll have really pissed-off people repeating themselves again. Picking the right facilitator is absolutely vital,” said Fehr.

Gares recommended Vernon’s Aly Pain, a conflict coach Gares called “highly accredited,” to facilitate the meeting and was willing to do so free of charge.

A motion to have Pain facilitate the meeting ended in a 3-3 tie, so was defeated, with Mayor Victor Cumming, Fehr and Brian Quiring voting against it.

“My suggestion is we don’t do this right at this minute,” said Cumming. “We see if there’s some alternative, suggest one or two council sit with administration and select somebody.”

Council voted unanimously to have staff put out request for proposals for the facilitator position and will report back on applications at the next regular meeting May 27.

Speaking of request for proposals, Interior Health has given the city a deadline of May 24 to come up with suggestions and input for a planned overdose prevention site (OPS), which had some council members wondering if the town hall meeting could be held on that topic prior to next Friday.

In the end, council voted unanimously to a motion by Coun. Scott Anderson to write a letter to Interior Health, asking for a deadline extension.

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