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Vernon News

Vernon closing visitor information centre and sani-dump

The Vernon Visitor Information Centre.
Image Credit: Google Street View

Due to a decline in use and a shift to online technology, Vernon city council has decided to permanently close its visitor information centre.

Council unanimously voted yesterday, April 27, to close the Vernon Visitor Information Centre, and remove a sani-dump at the same location, and after some discussion directed staff to report back on the re-purposing of the building to establish a permanent Level III Emergency Operations Centre and public washrooms.

The Vernon Visitor Information Centre has been closed at its location on 39 Avenue since the City decided not to give out a new contract to run it. It was scheduled to open, May 1.

The tourism committee recommended its closure as there has been a steady decline of usage and increasing costs to service visitors.

Manager of economic development and tourism Kevin Poole said the decline in use at brick-and-mortar visitor centres is B.C. wide, with the exception of Kelowna, which experienced an uptick in visitors at its waterfront location.

Mayor Victor Cumming suggested a visitor centre could be located in partnership with other spaces like in a mall or library, or possibly mobile kiosks could be used.

Councillor Kari Gares said mobile pop-ups could be located at local attractions like the Okanagan Science Centre, and noted the current tourism centre is in a bad location and the change in technology means “it’s not viable.”

Poole said the mobile tourism pop-ups are what the City is considering for the summer months.

Vernon Fire Rescue Services staff is currently using the office space at the former tourism centre to operate the emergency services program, and the fire department has previously advised council of its interest in establishing a permanent level three emergency operations centre within the building. Combined with the new City Centre Park, the location could also provide public washrooms.

Councillor Dalvir Nahal said she was apprehensive about approving the the tourism centre’s use for public washrooms and for an emergency operations centre, since the cost of the washrooms and new city park plans have yet to be unveiled and other non-profits may want to use the space.

Mayor Cumming said he’s a “great advocate of having washrooms in parks… it seems like a good central location.”

Coun. Gares wished to see feedback on what the new park will look like before and the cost of the washrooms before plans move ahead but said it’s a great idea to use the building as an emergency operations centre.

In the end, councillors agreed to close the tourism centre, but councillors Gares and Nahal voted against repurposing the building into an emergency operations centre and public washrooms.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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