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Vernon says its listening to residents, groups over recreation

Full report from consultant and user groups to come back before council Aug. 14
The auditorium inside the Vernon Recreation Complex is used for such events as the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club of Vernon’s annual Queen of Hearts competition. A full report on city user fees and charges for Recreation and Parks facilities, programs, and services comes back before council Aug. 14. (Morning Star - file photo)

The City of Vernon assures residents it is listening.

The city is continuing its process of formally reviewing the policy for setting user fees and charges for Recreation and Parks facilities, programs, and services. The review, which has been led by an independent third-party consulting group, is taking place based on a key recommendation from the 2018 Recreation Master Plan.

The consultant’s report was presented to council on July 17 but drew the ire of several groups including the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, who said the report completely ignored the input of local organizations.

“Now that all this information has been received, council has directed staff to bring a report back to the Aug. 14, council meeting, with recommendations on how to move forward,” said acting mayor Akbal Mund.

“That report will include the information from the independent third-party consultant’s findings and recommendations, as well as the letters from the community organizations. All of it will be in front of council for review and discussion, and to inform our decisions going forward.

“Council wants to reassure citizens we have heard you. The decisions we are making about recreation and parks fees, charges, programs and services are not made lightly. Careful and thoughtful attention is being given to all input that has been received and council is committed to making decisions that most appropriately fund and support the operation and maintenance of recreation and parks facilities, programs and services, to best serve the community as a whole.”

During its presentation July 17, the consultants noted it’s not possible to compare municipalities directly, as each community sets fees and charges in consideration of multiple factors including size of tax base, operating costs, local financial pressures, industry, and more. However, at council’s request, a comparison of fees from other communities will be presented at the Aug. 14 meeting.

The consultants also confirmed more than 130 facility user groups and interested parties were invited to participate in focus groups; 35 people attended the seven focus group opportunities and 21 completed user group questionnaires.

Some of the key recommendations in the consultant’s report include:

• Hold Recreation and Park Fee increases at CPI (Consumer Price Index) for 2024. Recommend a five per cent increase effective Jan. 1, 2024;

• Establish a two-year cycle for the Fees and Charges Bylaw;

• Establish a discretionary grant process to assist groups in hosting major community events;

• Schedule an event coordinator and/or parks caretaker so they are on duty when major tournaments and events are taking place;

• Consider allocating a portion of the Municipal Regional District Tax Program (MRDT) funds collected from hotel room rentals in Vernon to be used to enhance and maintain city facilities and amenities used for sport hosting tournaments and events;

• Review recreation programs for premium and low-cost options;

• Review low and no-cost options for core recreation activities such as swimming and skating.

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READ MORE: Vernon survey focuses on recreation facility rental fees, usage

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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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