A power struggle between the park board and several community centre associations is heating up to the point where some of the non-profit societies are threatening to end their longstanding partnerships with the board for good.
And much like a divorce, the end of those relationships could lead to the removal of equipment purchased by the associations from the community centres. That list includes exercise machines, weights, skates, bats, balls, yoga mats, tables, chairs, kitchen appliances and programming supplies.
Todd Constant, treasurer for the Riley Park/Hillcrest Community Association, said the problems stem from the city and park board pressuring the associations to dissolve their joint operating agreements and consent to what the city calls a "service agreement." Several associations have hired lawyers or consultants to help them negotiate the new deal.
"Basically the park board wants us to become advisory committees with no power," Constant said.
According to Constant, the non-profit societies purchased much of the equipment at their community centres and paid for repairs and renovations. In some cases they made large contributions to rebuilding an entire facility, he said.
Constant added that some associations have been asked to help pay for staff positions at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Constant said as registered nonprofit societies, the associations have historically been able to apply to both the federal and provincial governments for grants and loans for large projects. Being reduced to an advisory committee under a service agreement would likely eliminate that revenue source. Under the new agreement the park board would have more say in how the associations spend their money.
"No one is going to give a group money if they have to give it to another group who will then decide how it's going to be spent," said Constant. "[City manager] Penny Ballem said, 'I don't want to have a fight with 23 community centres,' but I don't see anyone fighting. We're being pushed into this situation and I have a mandate under the Association Act to act with professionalism and stand up for my community."
In an email to the Courier, park board spokesperson Joyce Courtney confirmed general manager Malcolm Bromley is attempting to update the 40-year-old joint operating agreement into what she called a more modern partnership deal. She added commissioners and parks staff, with support from the city, have worked with a small group of association presidents since the spring to ensure all residents have fair access to community centre programs. Courtney said while that's the norm at ice rinks and swimming pools, it's not the case at all community centres. In addition, the park board wants the public to have access to all community centre programs without having to take out separate memberships at each location. Some associations argue if their members raised the money for equipment for their specific centre, users should purchase an inexpensive membership.
"The community centre associations retain significant assets and have contributed to every community centre over the years. There is no plan or desire for the park board to change this in any way," wrote Courtney. Courtney said Vancouver residents through the park board have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to create the city's popular network of community centres and recreation facilities.
"The relationship with the associations has enhanced the products of these investments and the work being done now is designed to ensure that the work will continue together in a way that is sustainable and transparent to our citizens."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @sthomas10