Digging deeper into a civil diservice
May 20, 2012 / 1:04 pm
The previous column “When the Civil Service is a Disservice” first brought attention to a situation of civic disregard a month ago. Since then, some developments and a buried document have come to light concerning the City of Vernon, NORD, and more importantly the duped taxpayers of Vernon.
In 2000, the city was considering building a multi-use facility, but due to costs, a study was commissioned and done by Community Futures in 2001, entitled “Rethink the Rink”.
This document, since suppressed from public attention, is available through NORD. To summarize, it analysed the different opportunities and functions such a building could provide. Subsequently a referendum was held to allow taxpayers a chance to decide whether construction of a multi-plex was in their best interests.
Here is an excerpt; “A ReThink the Rink Marketing Plan should reassure the rest of the community that the facility is a place where a multitude of activities can take place. It is important for people of the area to view this facility as a “community” facility, a first class venue that will not only attract a variety of events to the community but will also be used to enhance the already large number of local events”.
It became the template of service for the city, and subsequently Recreation Excellence, the contracted management provider.
Tom Watson, CEO of Recreation Excellence (RE) says, “We were hired to run the Multi-plex in a fashion similar to the Rethink the Rink document envisioned––We really enjoyed the community - Unfortunately we weren’t retained. We have no interest in returning to Vernon.”
Given the interest taxpayers have in the building, why isn’t Vernon, using highly paid city workers, delivering some semblance of service that is equal to what we had, and close to the communities expectations? Instead we are stuck with a sub-standard operation, and little or no events reflecting the diversity of the community.
Theoretically, since the study played a part in the public decision at referendum time, and taxpayers signed on to what was promised, it should still be, or at least in part, binding today.
Westbild Holdings is another partner that stepped forward with a civic minded venture, only to find they paid a very high price, to name a very empty facility.
Brad Pelletier VP Okanagan said this; “From Wesbild’s perspective we first invested in the entitlement of the Wesbild Centre for civic reasons and in the hopes that our investment increased the entertainment options for residents of Vernon. With entitlement deals like this, the value is a function of the tenants and how actively programmed the building is. It is also up to us to define a strategy behind the investment and our on-going interest will depend on many factors.”
Given the lack of committed investment by the city and NORD, it would seem prudent that when a new contract extension is due, Westbild might be asking for a little more action, and a lot less talk, before signing again.
By raising assertions of the ineffectiveness of city management, one would think the managing body (the city) would have been inspired to answer and show transparency.
The sad reality is that the North Okanagan is being dis-serviced in a manner contrary to promises made during that referendum. The more troubling reality, the one that could affect positive change, is that the city doesn’t want to talk about it, NORD wants to ignore it, and many new taxpayers aren’t aware of it.
Fortunately we have a new mayor and a reconfigured council, so let’s hope their tastes run more worldly than just hockey.
The numbers, minus Vipers' hockey:
- In two years RE booked Wesbild (MultiPlex) for 147 days
- In two years the City of Vernon booked Wesbild for 85 days
(Editor's note: Jeff Hunkin's wife used to work for Recreational Excellence, he says he wrote his column based on what he has witnessed as a user of the facility and as a taxpayer not because of his family's history with the facility)
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