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Vernon planning for new pool as Coldstream pumps the brakes

Click to play video: 'Vernon moving forward on pool project alone' Vernon moving forward on pool project alone
WATCH: There's agreement in the North Okanagan that a new pool and recreation facility would be nice. However, the details, including who will pay, are proving more controversial. – Jul 2, 2020

The City of Vernon, B.C. is forging ahead alone with planning for a new recreation facility.

The city had hoped other neighbouring jurisdictions would help shoulder the cost of the multi-million dollar proposed project.

However, it’s now unclear if that will happen after the District of Coldstream said it didn’t want to participate till progress is made on another major proposed project in the region: the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre.

Vernon City Councillor Dalvir Nahal said the city is planning to push ahead with planning for the recreation facility because of the public support for the project.

Read more: Voters approve Vernon cultural centre in referendum

“I’ve been a councillor for five years and we get so many complaints that people don’t get enough time at our current rec centre,” Nahal said.

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“There is definitely a need for it in the community.”

The recreation facility proposal, which has not been finalized, is to borrow up to $90 million for what the city is calling an “Active Living Centre” at the site of the former Kin Racetrack in Vernon.

It could include a 50-metre pool, fitness centre, gyms and a track.

A conceptual design for the proposed new recreation facility in Vernon, B.C. City of Vernon

However, the Mayor of Coldstream, Jim Garlick, doesn’t want to see the region rush into borrowing money for the recreation facility with the cultural centre still not started.

It’s been almost two years since voters in Vernon, Coldstream and two electoral areas approved borrowing up to $25 million to build the cultural centre, but construction is yet to get underway.

Garlick feels like the region rushed into the borrowing referendum for the cultural centre and doesn’t want to repeat the same issue with the pool project.

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“Now is our opportunity to get it right with the aquatic centre. It’s caused us some difficulties with the cultural centre and we are working through them right now. But it is not as efficient and well done as I think it could have been,” Garlick said.

Read more: Cutbacks at Vernon pool causes political squabble over funding

Garlick stressed that Coldstream is interested in a new aquatic centre, but wants to see the cultural centre project dealt with first.

“We have a lot of things on our plate there with the cultural centre that we need to take care of before moving ahead on a $90-million project,” he said.

Vernon city councillor Dalvir Nahal believes there is nothing stopping the region from pursuing both projects at once.

“We see the demand for [the recreation facility] so we are not going to stall the project any longer just because one area has decided not to participate,” Nahal said.
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Read more: Mayor defends Vernon’s 4.9% tax increase in 2020 budget

Vernon is still hoping other jurisdictions will join the project later on.

However, if they don’t, Vernon City Council will have to decide if the municipality should go to a borrowing referendum for the project with only Vernon taxpayers footing the bill.

Vernon has asked its city staff to look at the possibility of holding a borrowing referendum for the recreation facility project in 2021.

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