By Mike Archer. More than 250 people filled the Abbotsford Council Chambers this afternoon to listen to presentations from the Citizens for Responsible Municipal Government (CRMP) and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) about whether or not taxpayers should give $17.5 million to the organization to build a new YMCA in Abbotsford.
Despite both chain-owned newspapers remaining silent on the delegation from CRMP and the expected turnout, Council chambers were packed with vocal and sometimes unruly citizens anxious to express their anger at both Council and Park and Recreation Manager Mark Taylor over what to many seems like a decision that has already been made.
Abbotsford businessman Fred Thiessen presented the case against the YMCA proposal.
As part of his presentation Thiessen read quotes from the Park & rec department from 2005 through to 2013 that seem at odds with each other.
From the Parks, Recreation and Culture (PRC) 2005 Master Plan
“Currently, the population of Abbotsford is sufficiently
provided with the two indoor and two outdoor aquatic
“Improve aquatic facilities to serve people with
“Inadequate janitorial services and facility cleanliness.”
“The YMCA’s new facility design concept supports the
trend towards the provision of large community
“Consider a partnership with the YMCA to centrally
locate an aquatic facility in the City of Abbotsford.”
From the PRC 2012-2013 Planning Presentation to Council 2012-2013 Planning Statements
“There is no pressure from the community to build a 50
“Our priorities include another ice surface and a
performing arts centre. In depth research will be
conducted on the Arts Centre…we got burned with Plan
A and we don’t want to do that again.”
Enter into an Agreement with the YMCA to spend
$17.5 million or more on a facility that no one knows
what it will include, , what programs will be offered,
where it will go, or how it will be funded.
Thiessen’s basic argument was that the City of Abbotsford cannot afford to give away any money to the YMCA or any other organization because of the abysmal shape of its finances. The CRMG presentation showed graph after graph demonstrating the huge drop in the DCC fund, the Capital Reserve fund, the increases in taxes and water rates and the deferral of infrastructure projects needed pay back all of the internal borrowing.
John Woolgar, General Manager for the YMCA of Greater Vancouver, was invited to provide the YMCA’s position and in a Powerpoint presentation outlined all of the good the YMCA including:
- Largest Child Care provider in BC
- Youth leadership and outreach
- Health and wellness
- Employment services
He told Council that demographics, economic and population growth were placing demands on the City that would always be greater than city’s ability to respond.
Woolgarrgued that it is a tough world for families and that health, fitness and well being is are all problems that come from people’s isolation and disconnection with their communities.
“The YMCA is trying to raise families,” he told Council.
After the presentations Coouncil discussed the matter at length and Councillor Henry Braun moved that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the YMCA should be torn up which caused several councillors to react angrily and Patricia Ross to announce that she was confused.
Braun’s motion was defeated.
The council chambers emptied after the contentious YMCA issue had been discussed.
Editor’s Note: Photos from City of Abbotsford live recording of Executive Committee meeting.