By Mike Archer. Most of those who were opposed to Mayor Banman and the City of Abbotsford’s YMCA plan don’t suffer under any illusion that either Banman or the YMCA have given up on the project.
This week we received a little more insight into the YMCA’s business plan and why they may tend to rely so heavily on local taxpayers as opposed to the usual forms of market financing to underwrite their operations.
The City of Abbotsford’s plan to provide up to $17.5 Million and tax-free status in perpetuity to help them build a paid-membership fitness facility that would compete with the established, non-subsidized businesses was suddenly pulled from the public agenda in April after a bizarre comic-opera in which Mayor Banman read a supposedly emotional letter from the YMCA offering to postpone the project indefinitely in light of the untimely and tragic death of former Parks and Recreation Director Mark Taylor.
Taylor had been the linchpin in the City’s long relationship with the YMCA having shepherded the project through the various approval procedures for many years with few in the community knowing much about the project. Why Banman bought into to the project so enthusiastically has never been made clear.
Banman’s bad acting aside, it turns out the act was full of whooey and that the YMCA was not postponing the project indefinitely at all. Banman never has explained the purpose of his little act but when pressed on whether or not he would categorically state that the project was dead he demurred and shuffled the issue over to staff before suggesting the issue never be spoken of again in public.
The information revealed over the four months during which Fred Thiessen peeled back the layers of the project and the community discovered how much they would be on the hook for the project led to a groundswell of public opposition which grew so loud the project was temporarily shelved.
A letter from new City Manager George Murray, sent to the YMCS after Banman’s confusing signals to Council and the public, made it clear that, from the City of Abbotsford’s perspective, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations was null and void and that the City was postponing the project indefinitely.
Evidence sent to Fred Thiessen from California this week (and forwarded to Abbotsford Today) provides us with an example of some of the financial pressures facing the YMCA in today’s economy and may prove to be a cautionary tale worth noting before considering the proposal again.
Most businesses, but particularly in the fitness business, can face very difficult times when the economy is tight. Not very many of them can rely on being bankrolled by their friends and neighbours through their taxes.
We appear to have dodged a bullet on the Banman’s YMCA proposal. Let’s not wander down the same garden path twice.
Riverside, Hemet YMCAs shuttered amid bankruptcy
Two locations close doors; CEO says local organization borrowed too
much when it built Temecula facility.
The YMCA in Riverside closed Jan. 11. Some members say monthly fees
were withdrawn from their banks after the Y announced it was filing
for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The Temecula City Council is purchasing the building for $1.6 million.