There is now no timeline for the Vernon Winter Carnival Society to leave its current city-owned home.
Eleven proposed city conditions that would allow the society to remain operating in the city-owned building on 35th Avenue have been reduced to nine and approved, following considerable debate and a close vote at Monday’s regular Vernon council meeting.
The original motion called for council to authorize the Carnival society to stay at the current building at 3401-35th Avenue “for a term no later than May 1, 2020,” conditional on 11 items.
After a 33-minute discussion, council voted by a margin of 3-2 (Couns. Akbal Mund and Kelly Fehr opposed, Dalvir Nahal and Brian Quiring were absent) to remove the May 1, 2020 deadline and two of the 11 conditions: that Carnival secure, at their cost, structural building and air quality assessments from qualified professionals, and provide such to the city at the beginning of each year; and that no further extensions to licence of occupation will be offered at the building.
In March 2018, council gave the society a six-month eviction notice, citing the continuing deterioration of the building — said to be “at or near the end of its life” — and fearing for the safety of the occupants.’ Negotiations have been ongoing ever since between the two sides.
The society has an executive director in the building from September to February. The building houses Carnival’s archives and trophies.
The Carnival is gearing up to host its 59th annual event, A Pirate’s Carnival, from Feb. 1-10.
Mund said if he owned a building which has been compromised over time due to age and flooding (sits right beside BX-Swan Lake Creek) and had employees inside, he would be conducting a structural assessment.
“There has to be something here that says we need to check the building out. Somebody has to go inside and make sure it’s OK,” said Mund. “When we’re giving it over, nothing is abiding them (Carnival) from doing anything. I know we want to wash our hands of it. In a court of law, I’m sure we’d still be guilty in some form knowing that this building was supposed to be taken down. I still have an issue there.
“I worry about the liability that falls back upon the city. That’s one of the main reasons we didn’t want to extend this in the first place was the liability that falls upon the taxpayer. I have no issues with them having the building for as long as they want. I just want to make sure the building is safe or we’ll be responsible to the taxpayer. And I don’t think the taxpayer will be too happy that.”
Mund said he spent a lot of time in the building working with the Funtastic Slo-Pitch Society, which was formerly housed in the same building. Mund said the building flooded every year since 2008 and added that Funtastic built shelves that were higher from the ground because of the flooding.
A structural assessment is estimated to cost around $6,500.
Fehr echoed Mund’s comments but added he was concerned going against staff recommendations around the issue of safety.
Couns. Scott Anderson and Kari Gares, and Mayor Victor Cumming voted in favour of the motion.
“We already know there are lots of buildings here in Vernon that flood naturally. I get that,” said Gare. “But I think the question that we have to ask ourselves, even as a city, we do not know (about the structure), so we had designated that this property be demolished because we assumed it has surpassed its life expectancy…and is posing a risk. We don’t have that data.
“Speaking on behalf of Winter Carnival, and I probably shouldn’t, but they’re in the building. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that they’re very much aware as to what the risks and potentials of that particular building are. I don’t think they’re naive to the fact that building is old, that it has flooded and that the foundation forms part of the creek bed.”
Anderson said the Carnival is well aware of the liabilities, have accepted them in full and doesn’t need “the city holding their hands.”
City administrator Will Pearce said the previous council received an assessment on the facility from two building professionals with 40 years of experience on where the building sits in its life cycle.
Cumming broke the tie vote on the motion.
“The fact the building is at the end of its life cycle is known by the Winter Carnival Society, and they are also fully aware this building floods and, hopefully, well-informed as an employer that that is a long-term issue,” said Cumming. “I would encourage the society to look at that seriously.”
The 10 motions passed included:
1. The society is responsible for all repairs and maintenance to the building;
2. The society accepts all liability for the building and its uses, without exception, and indemnifies and holds the city harmless for any issues relating to the condition and use of the building;
3. The society continues to actively seek a new location for their operations;
4. The society will not request funding related to maintenance or repairs for the building from the City of Vernon or Regional District of North Okanagan;
5. The society will enter into a licence of occupation agreement with the city no later than March 1, 2019;
6. The city shall not be responsible for any lost, stolen or damaged equipment belonging to the Winter Carnival Society;
7. The society shall not sublet or permit any other use of the building;
8. The society shall provide and maintain in good standing a comprehensive liability insurance policy in the amount of $5,000,000. The policy shall name the city as an additional insured, while the society occupies the building;
9. The society agrees that it will vacate the building immediately if ordered by a provincial or federal authority, or if the building suffers structural failure.