Fiscal challenges add up to say no

Resident questions planning for parks and recreation and ability to pay for infrastructure

Greater Vernon is facing some difficult financial decisions regarding aging and inadequate recreational and cultural facilities. In addition, the future cost of maintaining and replacing city infrastructure is a major concern

There is a demand for a new museum and art gallery. The politicians state that the need for a new pool be considered in 2014. Where would it be constructed? We are deficient in parks and facilities (we have no track and field facility). We are told that Civic Arena will need to be replaced very soon. Where will the replacement be constructed?

The obvious location is the area of Kin Race Track. The multiplex was built with an ice plant sufficient to handle two sheets of ice. Unfortunately, local government has allowed the horse racing issue to drag on for years with no resolution. Horse racing is in decline everywhere and Vernon is no exception. Kin Race Track needs to be set aside for a higher and better use. The issue was before the Supreme Court of B.C. and rather than letting the issue drag on forever, let the court make a determination.

Financially we should be aware of what many consider to be financial mismanagement:

* Another $100 million for required improvements to our water system.

* The gifting of $1million of land to Okanagan Regional Library, with the result that the city had to purchase another property at a cost in excess of $1million for the proposed 25th Avenue extension.

* The lack of transparency regarding the repairs to the venting system of the swimming pool. These repairs are necessary because of the complete failure of du diligence in the early 1990s.

* The failure of the regional district to implement new development cost charges at a cost to the taxpayers of $500,000.

* The fact that the $7.5 million referendum funds of 2003 have been borrowed at 4.1 per cent interest and they sit in a savings account earning about one per cent interest. Meanwhile, we are making payments on the debt.

* The City of Vernon assuming the full costs of maintaining Polson Park and assuming all future improvements even  though it is used by most of the North Okanagan.

* The agreement whereby the city will transfer millions of dollars worth of our land to the regional district and give up voting rights on park matters.

These are just some of the problems. We have incurred the debt of $10.5 million for the two floors at the hospital, will now have to borrow a further $5.5 million and have already taken on $59 million in debt related to the new hospital tower This debt is just part of the $80 million that we are responsible for, along with the adjoining hospital district.

How will the city fund replacing city infrastructure over the next 15 years? There is an estimated $13 million annual deficiency related to our infrastructure.

The city is in the middle of a core review. It does not know how it can handle its existing financial problems. Local government must implement a comprehensive 10-year plan which must address and define our needs and what we can afford.

The formation of the North Okanagan Sports Society should be able to assist but our elected officials must take the lead.

Vote no in the upcoming referendum and then the politicians will be forced to take a more sensible approach and let the taxpayers make informed decisions and hopefully  result in our community being financially affordable.

 

Barry Beardsell

Vernon