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Vernon declines meeting, grant from partners over recreation services

Current services agreement between Greater Vernon partners expires Dec. 31
The City of Vernon has said no to a meeting with the District of Coldstream and RDNO electoral areas B and C over the trio’s offer of a grant-in-aid to the city for recreation services. (Morning Star - file photo)

Thanks, but no thanks.

The City of Vernon has declined an invitation from the District of Coldstream and Regional District of North Okanagan electoral areas B and C to meet regarding an agreement from the trio of municipalities to provide a grant-in-aid to the city in support of recreation services.

Currently, recreation services for the Greater Vernon area are jointly funded by Vernon, Coldstream and RDNO electoral areas B and C, through the Greater Vernon Recreation Facilities and Programming Service Agreement.

“While we are disappointed in the city’s decline of our invitation to have further discussions, we recognize Vernon’s autonomy to undertake a direction that best meets its goals and objectives,” states a letter sent to Vernon, signed by Coldstream Mayor Ruth Hoyte and directors Bob Fleming (Area B) and Amanda Shatzko (Area C).

Prior to the end of 2022, all of the funding participants notified each other that they wanted to renegotiate the current agreement. Those negotiations had to be completed by June 30, 2023.

The participants haven’t been able to reach a consensus on terms for a new agreement; therefore, the current deal is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2023.

“City council has been clear and consistent in its communications with the other participants regarding its interest in reaching a new and equitable agreement,” said Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming on July 4. “It is unfortunate that new terms could not be reached for this particular agreement by the June 30 deadline.”

For the district and the electoral areas, they strongly feel they’ve made a compelling offer – significantly more than was provided in 2023, significantly more than the Consumer Price Index and significantly more than will be achievable through a proposed two-tiered fee structure.

The amount of the offer has not been disclosed.

“However, we also have to balance the desire to reach an agreement with our other objectives of financial stewardship and the demands of all the other services that we provide to our public,” said the trio.

The 2014 restructuring of recreation services provided the city with sole control of the identified recreation assets, including their operation. While continuing to support those principles, the 2014 restructuring also provided the autonomy for Coldstream and B and C to determine their level of financial support.

“Unfortunately, it appears that there is a divergence between the City of Vernon’s recreation objectives and ours,” said the municipalities.

Collectively, Coldstream and B and C remain open to providing financial support for recreation within the Greater Vernon area. However, they strongly feel that this support has to be cognizant of the fiscal realities that they operate within (asks for increases in excess of 25 per cent, as per a consultant’s report, are not achievable in this environment, they said) and need to be the result of mutual agreement arising from continued dialogue.

Coldstream and the two electoral areas will undertake an assessment of its respective communities’ recreational needs and how to best meet those needs going forward.

If there is an interest in further discussions, the trio is happy to get together with the city.

“In all scenarios, we respect the differences in viewpoints and support each jurisdiction undertaking the actions they feel necessary to best meet the wants and needs of their citizens,” said Coldstream and B and C.

Vernon council has assured its residents that the city has the financial resources available to appropriately fund recreation services in 2024.

“Minimal tax implications are expected due to the current agreement coming to an end,” said the city.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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