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Chamber choked by Vernon’s rental fee report

Chamber, groups feeling ignored after consultant report to city on facility rental fees
It cost the Vernon Winter Carnival Society the non-profit rate of $27,000 to rent Kal Tire Place arena to bring in Canadian country stars The Reklaws for a Winter Carnival concert in February. The Carnival and now Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce have spoken out against the city’s high rental fees, which will continue following a consultant’s report. (Morning Star - file photo)

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce says city council has ignored community organizations that rent public facilities.

Chamber representatives attended the July 17 committee of the whole meeting Monday morning for the presentation of a consultant’s report on a fee assessment and review for parks and recreation services. The agenda also included two letters from the chamber and four other non-profits that host events in Vernon, including Vernon Winter Carnival, which has been vocal about the high rental fees.

“There was absolutely no mention of the concerns raised in the letters by the organizations in terms of fees, customer service and facility maintenance. The fact that these concerns were side-stepped is extremely disappointing,” said Dan Proulx, chamber general manager.

“Council also completely overlooked calls from the chamber to partner with user groups and form a task force that investigates booking fees and customer service levels that encourages events from the perspective of community pride and economic development. We expected council would want to hear from community organizations that have experience with public facilities but obviously that’s not the case.”

Council received the consultant’s fee assessment and review and directed city staff to implement recommendations presented by the consultant. The chamber is concerned the city’s direction on parks and recreation will be based solely on the consultant’s report.

“The report contained no fee information from other communities and while it may be difficult to completely compare apples to apples, it would be beneficial to see where Vernon sits in terms of fees,” said Proulx. “From data the chamber gathered, Vernon charges the highest rates for the farmers markets and sports fields. We supplied this information to the council but, once again, it was not referenced at the meeting.”

The chamber’s survey of users contradicts the third party consultant’s report which suggested user groups thought fees were fair. Of those surveyed by the chamber, 70 per cent indicated that they were dissatisfied with fees with only 12 per cent stating a level of satisfaction.

“We were also shocked to learn that the consultant’s report suggests even higher user fees for facilities and that council should hand out grants to groups that require lower fees,” said Proulx. “The reality is that grants wouldn’t be required if fees were reasonable, and recognized the hard work of non-profits and the value events bring to our community.”

The chamber says it will now reach out to members of council to highlight the need for a task force.

“Despite a lack of interest and action from council, the chamber will continue to ensure that non-profits and event organizers have a voice,” said Proulx. “The social and economic fabric of this community depends on a vibrant and diverse event sector, and that is a vision we want city council to embrace.”

READ MORE: Carnival questions Vernon over costly facility rental prices

READ MORE: Vernon survey focuses on recreational facility rental fees

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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