Without city's financial support, Vernon Elks face losing $100K federal grant to help restore its lodge

·3 min read
The Vernon Elks lodge on 30th Street. The city says it intends to buy the block for redevelopment, and so, as per policy, it won't make any financial commitments in support of the organization's application for a federal heritage grant. (Vernon Elks Lodge #45/Facebook - image credit)
The Vernon Elks lodge on 30th Street. The city says it intends to buy the block for redevelopment, and so, as per policy, it won't make any financial commitments in support of the organization's application for a federal heritage grant. (Vernon Elks Lodge #45/Facebook - image credit)

The century-old Elks organization in Vernon, B.C., might miss out on a $100,000 federal grant to help renovate its lodge because the city won't commit to financially supporting the project.

A year ago, the Vernon Elks — established in March 1920 — applied for the grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage's Building Communities through Arts and Heritage Legacy Fund, a program for community-led projects that celebrate the 100th anniversary of an organization.

But a required letter of support from the City of Vernon did not promise any financial backing to restore the community hall, causing the federal agency to deny the grant's approval in January.

The city says it won't commit any funds because it ultimately plans to buy the block including the Elks Lodge.

Matter of policy

A consultant for Vernon Elks says the volunteer organization has been financially hamstrung over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the federal grant is important for the community hall to continue its service.

The planned restoration of the Elks Lodge at 3103 30th St. includes replacing two 30-year-old furnaces, creating accessible washrooms, installing an elevator and building a space to display historical memorabilia of the club.

"It would provide the opportunity for additional revenue to be earned by the Elks Lodge, to help them to stabilize again and sustain into the next 100 years," consultant Elaine Gallacher told Sarah Penton, host of CBC's Radio West, on Wednesday.

The Elks Lodge has been financially hamstrung due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says Vernon Elks consultant Elaine Gallacher.
The Elks Lodge has been financially hamstrung due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says Vernon Elks consultant Elaine Gallacher.(Vernon Elks Lodge #45/Facebook)

Vernon chief administrative officer Will Pearce says the decision not to support the project financially is a matter of city policy, which states that the city won't fund properties it intends to purchase.

"It is [the] council's desire to consolidate that block [where the Elks Lodge is located] for future development, either to purchase that building or have a future developer incorporate Elks program space into a new building," Pearce said in a council meeting Monday.

"Past councils have been approached by Elks, and have been consistent in the position of not being prepared to provide funding that would lengthen the life of that particular building."

But Gallacher said, as far as she is aware, Vernon Elks is not interested in selling the property.

On Monday, Vernon city council discussed how it could support the restoration project in order to help the Elks with the grant application, which Canadian Heritage is willing to reconsider.

Coun. Brian Quiring put forward a motion to donate $500 for installing the accessible elevator in the Elks Lodge, but only if the application is successful.

The council will discuss the motion later this month.

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming says the city intends to purchase the block where the Elks Lodge is located and to redevelop it into a cultural centre.
Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming says the city intends to purchase the block where the Elks Lodge is located and to redevelop it into a cultural centre.(Digital Dean/City of Vernon)

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming told Radio West the city intends to transform the city block into a cultural centre, but it hasn't yet made a formal offer to buy.

He added that the city has provided a small discretionary grant to Vernon Elks.

Tap the link below to hear Elaine Gallacher and Victor Cumming's interview on Radio West: