UPDATED: Abbotsford News Publishes Then Takes Down Then Republishes Story Claiming City Nixing YMCA Deal

UPDATED 18/04/13 14:46 – It what appears to be the latest of a long series of missteps and communications mistakes on the YMCA proposal, the Abbotsford News first published and then withdrew a story on their website Thursday about a letter they said was sent by City Manager George Murray to Vancouver YMCA president and CEO Stephen Butz announcing that the City of Abbotsford was no longer going to pursue the YMCA proposal.

In the story the News reported that in the letter the City had made its position clear that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed to by both parties was not a legally binding document and that the City was giving the YMCA notice that it does not intend to go ahead with the proposal.

The story finished with a statement that the City was indefinitely postponing the project – almost exactly the words Banman had attributed to Stephen Butz in his statements to the public on April 8.

While the stor spent a brief time on the Abbotsford News website it has been taken down without explanation by 2:15 pm Thursday.

Abbotsford Today has not been able to confirm the story the News published.

This has not been a good two weeks for Mayor Banman and the YMCA after a confusing performance by Banman at the April 8 council meeting during which Banman appeared to read a letter from the YMCA’s Stephen Butz which, according to Banman, stated that, due to former Parks and Rec Director Mark Taylor’s death, the YMCA was indefinitely postponing its plans to accept $17.5 million in taxpayer cash as well as property-taxfree status on its proposed paid-membership fitness facillity.

When the actual letter was released earlier this week, it became apparent much of what Banman had told council and the public was not in the YMCA letter at all.

The YMCA proposal has drawn heavy criticism from residents who don’t believe the City has the money to give away; should not be subsidizing private organizations; has no business competing with existing fitness businesses, and shoulod be devoting Abbotsford tax dollars to bringin down the City’s enormous debt – both internal and external – and doing something about the infrastructure deficit which has caused development and econoomic growth to stall in the city.

Fred Thiessen started his organization to fight the YMCA proposal back in January but the chain-owned media in Abbotsford has steered clear of his story until the Abbotsford News told its readers Thiessen had launched his initiative in their April 4 edition three month safter it began. The Abbotsford Times has been silent on the story.

UPDATE 14:46 18/04/13

The News has now re-posted the story with a copy of the letter they say was sent by George Murray to the YMCA. We have posted a copy of that letter from the News’ story below

“Dear Steve,

Thank you for your letter of March 28th, 2013 and subsequent conversations, regarding the status of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the development of a YMCA in Abbotsford. The City truly appreciates the understanding of you, and your Board, regarding the situation that the City of Abbotsford now finds itself in.

On April 8th, 2013, at its Regular meeting of Council, the following resolution was passed:

Moved by Councillor Smith, seconded by Councillor Gill, that the City ofAbbotsford defer further discussions regarding the development of a YMCA facility in Abbotsford based on the correspondence dated March 28, 2013, as well as subsequent discussions, with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver.

R097-2013 CARRIED.

Based on the above noted resolution, please be advised that the City of Abbotsford has agreed to indefinitely postpone the proposed partnership to develop a YMCA in Abbotsford. As the MOU was not a binding agreement, the City is sending you this letter to confirm that we will no longer pursue this initiative.

On behalf of Mayor and Council, I would like to thank the YMCA for your support and patience during the past number of months.

Yours truly,

George M. Murray”

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • DeceitinDrugs says:

    Clarification on the YMCA MOU, in terms of delaying, the
    project, postponement of the project or no longer
    pursuing the project tend to deflect from the real reason,why
    the Mayor of Abbotsford has not clearly explained, it’s position
    on a proposed YMCA project in Abbotsford.

    Once again, perhaps, banking on the idea of “third time lucky,
    Council has brought forward a project supported, once again, by
    the Abbotsford Chamber past and present Exec. and some of it’s
    select members many in development/big business, but, like
    Plan A and the Water vote, this project requires funding, the city just does NOT have!

    As Ex-Mayor Peary said in 2009, “sooner or later you have to bite
    the bullet,” in reference to the $30 million short for roads/maintenance, due to the money being used for the arena cost

    Yes, I knew it was just a matter of time. Things tend to have
    a domino effect and it all started with the Plan A cost overuns.

    The bottom line: The city of Abbotsford had to defer the YMCA
    project, due to lack of funds in the city reserves to cover costs of this project. Only half the money was available, but, the Vye Rd.
    project requires a $8.3 million injection of cash, which the city cannot defer.

    The Vye Rd. project has been on the cities’ books, since 2005 and
    has been a safety risk for years, which now can be addressed with
    the input of money from the Federal and Provincial Government.

    DCC’S, also, play into the financial picture, when it comes to the
    YMCA financing. Slow housing starts, due to the instability of
    the Cdn economy, further, restricts the ability of the city to replenish, it’s reserve funds.

    What many taxpayers do not know is that the city borrowed a portion
    of the costs for the McCallum/Clrbrk Rd. Interchange projects via
    the DCC Road & Water Fund with the understanding of the need to
    replace the monies with future DCC’S.

    The city ended up in difficult financial situation:

    – DCC’S collected in near future need to replenish funds used
    via internal borrowing

    – $17.5 million for Cities’ portion of YMCA costs and half still
    needed to be collected in near future.

    – $ 8.3 million for cities’ portion of Vye Rd./Nexus upgrades

    Mayor Banman tried to make it seem that the YMCA decided not to
    pursue the YMCA project, at this time, due to the staff issues at City Hall, due to Mark Taylor’s passing/new City Manager, when in fact,it was more about the city trying to AVOID admitting they were supporting a project, which the city can NOT afford, at this time.

    Mayor Banman did not see it necessary to explain to the taxpayer’s
    opposed to this project about the determination made between, the city
    and the YMCA, prior to Mr. Thiessen’s delegation to Council, because,
    after all, he and his supporters,they are just seen as a small group of irrelevant taxpayers, not, city stakeholders like, Abbotsford
    Chamber of COmmerce, Exec., or select developers/big businessmen
    in this city, which the city associates with on a regular basis.

    Mayor Banman, not in touch with the everyday taxpayer in this city, however, misjudged Mr. Thiessen’s role as a ‘stakeholder’ in this city.

    He, also, represents the “other” stakeholders in this city, the very people, who pay the taxes, pay the mortgages, are consumers, which make it possible for private big business/developers in this city to thrive and profit!

    Mr. Thiessen came to speak to Council but, he is the ‘VOICE” of many
    taxpayers in this city and it is time for council to start listening
    to the so-called critics, naysayers in this city, because they are

  • wintershades says:

    and the STAKEHOLDERS are not getting a return on their investment. Time to get a backbone Mayor and Council and stand up for the citizens of Abbotsford. DO THE RIGHT THING and don’t even consider spending money we don’t have.

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