Elks Lodge members feel 'bullied' by Vernon over $100K grant support | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Elks Lodge members feel 'bullied' by Vernon over $100K grant support

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Vernon Elks Lodge
March 09, 2021 - 6:00 PM

The City of Vernon is preventing a 100-year-old service club from getting its hands on a once-in-a-century $100,000 federal grant because it has aspirations to purchase its building, even though the club has no intention of selling it.

At Vernon council's March 8 meeting, councillors heard how the City's "historic" policy was not to provide funding that would lengthen the use of Vernon's Elks Lodge as the City wanted to purchase it.

The City's move not to give its support led to the Elks being refused a $100,000 Canadian Heritage grant.

"We really feel that we're being bullied," Elks Lodge secretary and treasurer Maureen Sather said. "It's just not right."

Sather reiterated the Elk's Lodge had "absolutely" no intention of selling its hall, and the City had never approached them with a formal offer anyway.

While not specifically said at council, the City's logic appears to suggest that if the City refuses to support them, the service club's building will fall into disrepair and they will eventually give up and agree to sell.

Founded in 1920, Vernon's Elks Lodge had applied to Canadian Heritage for a $100,000 grant to do renovations to its downtown Vernon hall. The Elks had met the grants application criteria because the money was available as a one-off in celebration of the club's 100th anniversary.

However, in January the Elks application was refused by Heritage Canada on the grounds the group didn't have enough support from the City of Vernon.

The issue made its way to the City's council meeting March 8, with another request from the Elks to show its support with a cash donation of any size or in-kind contribution so it could obtain the grant from Heritage Canada.

The City's policy not to support the Elks because it wanted its building didn't sit well with some councillors.

"They need us in order to get this grant and we're not going to give them what need because we want their property," Councillor Brian Quiring told the meeting. "That doesn't necessarily fit very well with me."

Coun. Scott Anderson agreed.

"I am concerned... about the optics of this, and frankly the philosophy of what appears to be strong-arming a citizen because we want their property," Coun. Anderson said.

Now in its 100th year, Vernon's Elks Lodge moved into the building on the corner of 30 Street and 32 Avenue - next to the proposed site for the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre - in 1940. The club currently has more than 70 members and raises roughly $35,000 each year to distribute to local charities in Vernon.

Over the last 100 years, the Elks Lodge has donated several million to charities in the city in today's dollars.

Pre-COVID-19 the Elk's downtown lodge was booked every weekend but one from March until December.

"They don't exist for any other purpose but to give to their community," Elaine Gallacher said.

Gallacher, who wrote the charities grant application, said the Elks want to create a little museum upstairs in the hall as well as replace two-decades-old furnaces and create accessible washrooms for persons with disabilities. She said the size of the donation isn't important but they must be specific to the renovation of the lodge.

Sather said they'd also like to convert the roof into a rooftop patio.

While some of the conversation at council had discussed supporting the Elks for equipment, such as a ramp that could be moved if the building sold, the fact that the building isn't up for sale wasn't really addressed.

Sather is adamant the club will only consider selling the building if the City can find them another suitable downtown location. The proposition will be no easy feat.

In the meantime, the City's 'strong-arm' tactics could see the club miss out on the $100,000 grant.

Ultimately, council voted to bring the issue back in two weeks so councillors could make a more informed decision.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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