The Killarney Community Centre Association may withhold almost half a million dollars from a promised seniors’ centre if the Vancouver park board takes over its operations, as the board has warned it will do in its ongoing dispute with Killarney and five other centres.
But the park board’s vice-chair has said the board will move forward with the seniors’ centre regardless of the association’s decision.
The president of Killarney’s association, Ainslie Kwan, has said that the group can’t promise that $400,000 set aside to help operate the planned centre would be handed over if the park board were to take control.
“That decision would have to go to our board. We wouldn’t want to see the seniors in dire straits but we want the relationship to be collaborative and have the community associations be a part of it.”
‘We will fund this centre’
Park board vice-chair and Vision Vancouver member Aaron Jasper believes the park board ultimately has responsibility for the centres and the association’s decision will not impact plans to move forward with the project.[pullquote align=”right”]At this point, let’s just get it built[/pullquote]”If it’s required, we will fund this centre 100 per cent on our own. Any other external funding sources would be considered and evaluated but that has no bearing on how we decide to get this building built. At this point, let’s just get it built.”
The association and the park board are currently embroiled in a legal fight. The association has sued the park board twice, once over its plan to issue a universal-access card for all centres and the second, over the board’s move to terminate its joint management agreement with the six dissenting centres.
Kwan believes the associations should have more say in the management of the centres than the park board appears to want.
This is the latest complication in more than a decade of lobbying efforts for the seniors’ centre.
According to a feasibility study for the centre, the number of seniors in southeast Vancouver is growing faster than the rest of the city. Currently, about 17,000 seniors live in the area. Of the nine seniors’ centres in the city, none are in this neighbourhood.
Lorna Gibbs, the president of the South Vancouver Seniors’ Arts and Cultural Society, believes a specific centre is necessary in the community to help seniors remain engaged.
“We just had one of the early committee members pass away last week and it’s sad to see someone go without even having the first shovels down. We have always said that we wanted to see it done in this lifetime,” said Gibbs, who has lobbied for the centre for more than a decade.
A long time coming
The park board officially began exploring the feasibility of the project more than six years ago. The city, the province, and the federal government have pledged support but, of the $10 million required, a $2.5-million shortfall remains.
Where that remaining money will come from is also the subject of a political tussle.
Non-Partisan Association park board commissioner Melissa De Genova believes the remaining funds have not been approved by the Vision-controlled city council simply because “it hasn’t been a priority.”
In mid-October, De Genova put forward a motion to use the city’s community amenity contributions fund for the centre. That fund comes from money developers have paid to help develop additional community facilities as neighbourhood populations increase when new housing is built.
De Genova argued that the fund is already designated for libraries, neighbourhood houses and other such community facilities.
“There are many issues where politics needs to be put aside and now that I’ve found the funding solution, there’s really no excuse,” she said.
The motion was referred to a park board committee meeting to be heard on Oct. 22.
Gibbs remains optimistic that, despite the legal wrangling and funding gap, there will be a seniors’ centre for Killarney.
“Whatever happens, whichever side is judged to be correct, the seniors are still going to be there and they’re still going to need a seniors’ centre.”