Full Presentation and Pre-Interview with YMCA Delegation to City Council

By January 17, 2013YMCA

Please click to download the Presentation Files for the Delegation made to Abbotsford City Council. They include:

We sat down with Fred Thiessen, who will make a presentation to City Council on Monday January 21st, and voice his objections to the funding of the proposed YMCA facility. Here are those questions and answers…

I’ve read your Press Release…tell me in your own words why you object to the City funding the YMCA recreation facility. (Please click here for full Press Release)

The fundamental issue here is that it is not allowed in the Community Charter. It says we can’t give land or assistance to a private organization and that is exactly what we are doing when we give them money or help them get financing.

The City of Abbotsford looks at this as a 50% savings for a facility they say they need. Don’t you think that is good stewardship of taxpayer money? The City also claims they can fund this without an increase in Property Taxes, so why isn’t it a good fiscal decision?

Firstly, there is no demonstrable need for the facility. Parks & Rec Director, Mark Taylor said we didn’t need another pool in his recent presentation to City Council. Additionally, we don’t have the money so whatever we give them will have to come out of a fund that we will have to pay back. This will result in a tax increase.

The YMCA is known as trustworthy organization.  Allowing that the City of Abbotsford has entered into some bad relationships in the past, should we really throw this potentially good one out just because of that history?

No question the YMCA is a great organization. They are successful enough to have done $6 Billion in business last year.  That is not the issue. Should taxpayers be asked to pay for a facility that is a duplicate of existing facilities with no clear increase in services.

You mention unfair business competition in your statement.  The YMCA is a charitable organization so can you explain to me how it unfairly competes with businesses?

It is a business with charitable status so they don’t have to pay costs where non-charitable businesses do. In this case, they will not have to pay for 50% of their startup costs…private businesses had to come up with that money.  We have many private and public facilities that are currently under-utilized and this competition will draw users away from those facilities adding to the cost to taxpayers and taking money out of local business that paid in full to be here.

There are already public recreation facilities that private businesses must compete with so why is this any different?

As usage of our existing public facilities goes down, we will need more tax money to subsidize those losses. Already ARC is subsidized with nearly $1 million per year. When people stop going there and go to the YMCA, this number will go up further adding to the overall burden to taxpayers.

You have friends in the Fitness and Recreation industry. Isn’t this just about them and not about responsible government spending?

Yes, I know lots of business owners and I am here for them…not just the fitness facility owners but all businesses and taxpayers. This is unfair to everyone in town and I’m a taxpayer too.

In your Press Release, you offer the idea that the Agreement with the YMCA is not allowed under the Community Charter. Please explain.

There are many clauses in the Charter that the Agreement with the YMCA do not conform to. Receiving assistance for a purpose other than heritage conservation, receiving assistance to secure financing…these are not allowed in the Charter but appear right in the Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Abbotsford.

Have you received legal advice about the Agreement and your Opinion?

Yes, an informal conversation with my lawyer who generally agrees with our conclusions.

What do you want Council to do?

I’d like to see Council make a motion to quash the Agreement on the basis that it is not legal and therefore cannot be binding. Failing that, I’d like to see them put it to a Referendum during the next Election.

Is there anything else we should know?

It is obvious City Council is out of touch with the people of Abbotsford. They were wrong about the Abbotsford Heat, they were wrong about the new Water Source and now they are wrong about the YMCA. We want them to stop spending our money.

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