Invermere residents made clear their majority support for a new community centre and for culling deer as a means to control the urban deer population, according to unofficial results in last weekend’s referendum on both topics.
Asked whether or not they support the district borrowing up to $5.6 million to fund a new community centre, 749 residents voted yes and 245 voted no. Asked if they support a deer cull as a tool for urban deer management, 729 voted yes and 259 voted no.
Invermere mayor Gerry Taft said he was somewhat surprised by the large margin with which Invermere residents voted in support of the deer cull, since there was so much controversy over the issue.
“It was hard to tell what the real feeling of residents was, so it’s great to know. It helps inform council,” he said. “Some of the people opposed (to the deer cull) will not be happy and probably won’t give up, but I hope this removes some of the controversy and outside attention. Hopefully it means people in Invermere have decided and that’s the end of the story.”
A deer cull is unlikely in 2014 since the district simply doesn’t have any money in its budget for it, said Mr. Taft, adding the district will be asking the Province for financial support if it were to carry out a deer cull in the future.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with the results, but more than 250 people voted no and we think that’s a decent number,” said Invermere Deer Protection Society president Devin Kazakoff, adding he thought the vote would be much closer to a 50-50 split.
“We are surprised that 700 people came out to vote for culling, but at the same time it’s encouraging that at least 26 percent of people don’t agree with culling,” said Mr. Kazakoff.
A new community centre for Invermere has generated much less controversy — Mayor Taft said he was still glad to see that the majority of residents want it.
“It’s really positive,” he said of the vote’s results on the community centre. “There didn’t seem to be any organized opposition, but you never really know, so we’re really happy with the result.”
The district will now work on getting input from the community and various user groups to help refine the basic concept of the new community centre, as well as figure out who should be hired to build it and secure firm pricing for it.
“We’re hoping design and consultation will start in the new year,” said Mayor Taft, noting that demolition of the old David Thompson Secondary School building — the site of the new community centre — will probably also begin at the same time. “The goal is to start construction (of the new centre) in 2015. We want to go ahead quite quickly; we’re hoping this doesn’t get bogged down in years and years of planning.”
Council was grateful for the turnout in the referendum, he said, adding that, at almost 1,000 people (keeping in mind that many residents eligible to vote may not be in Invermere during the November shoulder season), it represented roughly 50 percent of eligible voters.