BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Passing the puck

Plans shelved for referendum for replacement ice due to timeline, but there's more to it

The Regional District of North Okanagan announced Monday that plans are being shelved for a Nov. 15 referendum to borrow $13 million for a replacement ice sheet for Civic Arena.

The reason given in a press release was, “At the present time, RDNO has not received the required approval from the inspector of municipalities needed to move the service establishment and loan authorization bylaws to referendum for the expansion of the Vernon and district multi-use facility.”

If you read between the lines, the provincial government’s bureaucracy is slower than molasses in January.

But further investigation provides more insight into the situation.

“The province has raised concern about RDNO having a referendum and borrowing for a capital expansion of a facility owned by the City of Vernon,” said David Sewell, the regional district’s chief administrative officer.

Now for a quick reminder on what’s been happening politically in Greater Vernon over the last few years. All of the jurisdictions decided to restructure recreational services to apparently improve oversight and create efficiencies. This led to RDNO handing over legal title of its facilities, including Kal Tire Place, to the City of Vernon. The city would operate the facilities and Coldstream and the electoral areas would provide funding to ensure access for their residents.

At the same time, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee investigated the longevity of the aging Civic Arena and decided the preferred route would be constructing a new ice sheet at the north end of Kal Tire Place. Hockey users and residents were consulted and the process towards a Nov. 15 referendum began.

Now flash forward to Monday’s announcement that there won’t be a referendum this fall. What this reveals is the Ministry of Community Development questions how the regional district can borrow money for an asset it does not own. It would be similar to me asking the bank for cash so I can use my neighbour’s pool.

One has to wonder about the process that was followed.

Prior to getting minor hockey’s hopes up about a new ice sheet, did RDNO extensively consult with the ministry about the proposed borrowing bylaw and any potential complications? If it did, was there any advance warning that borrowing money for a facility no longer owned by the regional district could be problematic?

I’m no expert, but I have a mortgage and it’s obvious that ownership and borrowing are generally linked.

The other question arising out of all of this  is the future of Greater Vernon’s restructured recreational service, which was hammered out after countless hours of meetings and, one would assume, costly legal advice.

If Coldstream and electoral area taxpayers can’t apparently pump money into a new ice sheet, can they assist with upgrades at the Vernon Recreation Complex or any other facility they use that’s owned by Vernon?

RDNO officials have stated options will now be considered and constructing a new ice sheet remains a priority.

We need a process to replace Civic Arena before it fails catastrophically,” said director Rob Sawatzky.

That may be the case, but let’s hope our elected officials have their ducks in a row the next time.