This letter is being sent in response to comments made on pickleball in the Jan. 10 Morning Star by the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and then supported by an editorial from the paper itself.
The gist of these comments was that a $2-plus million project request for pickleball facilities and additional tennis facilities is something large enough to merit taking a step back to consider an overall Marshall Field long-term plan review, a possible referendum to the general population for funding support or perhaps an initiative to pursue a private business that would build a facility at no cost to the public.
To clarify, the Dec. 10, 2015 request put to the Regional District of North Okanagan was strictly for a 12-court, outside pickleball facility. The cost is about $500,000. A significant portion of the funding is expected to come from various charitable organizations and private donations. You can see the full presentation by going to vernonpickleball.com and clicking on the dedicated public pickleball courts headline to verify what was really being requested.
At the end of the presentation, RDNO asked questions about other related projects and what they might cost (e.g. more tennis courts and a shared building for indoor tennis and pickleball activity) if brought forward at some point in the future. An informal response was given to these blue-sky types of questions and the meeting ended.
Somehow the project communicated to the public in the newspaper incorporated these additional elements (things that might never be requested if demand does not materialize or if funding is not available) to give an entirely false sense of the size and scope of the actual current proposal. By bloating the cost and scope of the project by more than 400 per cent it gives credence to the suggestion of a need for an overall site review.
The proposal was sent in draft form to RDNO for review and comments a couple of weeks before the Dec. 10 presentation was made to them. As no feedback was given, the assumption was that the proposal was good to go. Note, this was similar to a proposal that was provided to Vernon city council a month previous when Polson Park was being pursued as the site. Our committee withdrew that presentation when we were advised that Polson was not going to work and Marshall Field was suggested as the do-able alternative.
I won’t even try to guess why the reported scope of the project has been misrepresented but I can tell you, our proposal has been consistent from day one. We have been working on this and sharing our thoughts with parks and recreation since last July when our committee was struck.
Initial feedback from the city was very encouraging in terms of a recognition that dedicated pickleball courts would be well utilized by not only the 350-plus members of the Vernon Pickleball Association but youth organizations, schools and the general public as well. The city indicated this was a project it really wanted to go forward and was prepared to allocate land and some funding to this amenity. It was pleased to have our group lead the initiative to get it done. Unfortunately, since that initial feedback last July, the project seems to be stuck in neutral.
To say this has been a frustrating exercise is an understatement. We remain challenged to understand the process required to truly advance our project, who the decision makers really are and what it will take to get even a conditional site approval. If funding is the main concern, the lack of even a conditional site approval has seriously hampered our funding subcommittee’s ability to apply for grants and donations as we can give no assurances to our potential donors that the project is even real.
The gross overstatement of the cost and size of the project at hand has been used to manufacture the rationale for a possible overall review of the Marshall Field site long-term use plan and a possible referendum to spend millions of dollars. This serves only one purpose which is to delay making any decision, possibly for years.
The reality is that once the site is guaranteed, our fundraising could move forward in high gear and the $500,000 price tag would be chiselled considerably. The cost to the taxpayers would be minimal. The initial construction and ongoing maintenance of the facility would have significant VPA involvement, helping to minimize possible cost overruns and workloads to city staffers.
Given the small footprint and location (between the existing tennis courts and soccer building), as well as the minimal taxpayer funding, an overall site review and referendum is not necessary.
Direction from city hall/RDNO/GVAC to our committee on what exactly is needed to shift this $500,000 project out of neutral and back into drive is therefore respectfully requested.
Myron Hocevar, Chairperson,
Vernon Dedicated Courts Committee