Vote date nears for sports facility

Greater Vernon residents will soon know when they head off to the polls on a sports complex

Greater Vernon residents will soon know when they head off to the polls on a sports complex.

The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee will decide Thursday on a date for a spring referendum on a track and football field at Okanagan College.

“This is the obvious next step,” said director Rob Sawatzky.

“We have to see what the community attitude is.”

Director Jim Garlick is also pleased that staff have moved the process to a point where a referendum date can be selected.

“If we leave it until the end of the term, it doesn’t show much faith in the project,” he said.

The complex would include a rubberized track and an artificial turf field.

The projected cost is $7.8 million but voters could be asked to borrow up to $8.5 million.

“It’s a responsible practice to build in contingencies,” said Tannis Nelson, Regional District of North Okanagan community development co-ordinator.

“We would only borrow what is required.”

Nelson has met with groups that could use the facility.

“We’re looking for support for proceeding with a referendum,” she said.

“The resounding response was yes. There is a lot of excitement.”

A citizens’ committee will then be formed to spearhead the referendum.

“A spring date gives community organizations lead time to communicate information to the public,” said Nelson.

Garlick believes a communications strategy will be critical to the success of a referendum.

“We need to put effort into it. From the public, we need to get buy-in to move it along,” he said.

The provincial Agricultural Land Commission, which approved a non-farm use on the site, says the facility must be constructed by November 2014.

If the referendum is approved by the public, Nelson says there will be sufficient time to meet the ALC’s deadline.