Cities mull separation costs

Maple Ridge announced in October that it will pull out of the deal by October 2016.

Like the break-up of a 20-year marriage, the ending of the recreation joint-use agreement between Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will come down to bickering about bills.

Maple Ridge announced in October that it will pull out of the deal by October 2016, allowing a year to make the transition so that both cities can figure out how to run their own parks and recreation departments.

Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson is wondering if that will leave his city stuck with staff severances costs.

He thinks Pitt Meadows should pay for those, if any result.

Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker, though, said, legally, severance is Maple Ridge’s responsibility.

“That may be the legality of it. ‘Maple Ridge, they’re all your employees. You have to deal with all of the severance. We do not have to concern ourselves about that.’ “

Still, Pitt Meadows wants to be fair.

“If we are losing people in this transition, then without making any commitment in that regard … I think that conversation about Pitt Meadows’ contribution towards any severance, I think that conversation may be appropriate,” Becker added.

“We may not have a legal obligation to pay, but we may contribute something here – if we can get something over there.”

Pitt Meadows has chosen KDH Management Consultants to help it build a new parks and recreation department and determine what kind of services to offer.

If that new department needs people, it would make sense to hire any former employees from Maple Ridge.

“I see no reason why they wouldn’t be at the top of the consideration heap,” Becker said.

However, it’s not certain if any layoffs will result from the pending split.

Robson said Maple Ridge was forced into ending the joint-use agreement, which a consultant said saved Pitt Meadows about a million dollars a year, and had Maple Ridge subsidizing its about $200,000 annually, because Pitt Meadows wouldn’t meet to resolve the discrepancy.

“I certainly didn’t want a divorce from Pitt Meadows, but they gave us no choice.”

Becker, though, said prior to the split that Pitt Meadows was awaiting a report from Maple Ridge, which runs the recreation department and has the data, on how to make the agreement more fair.

“That was never done,” Becker said.

“So we remained ready, willing and able as soon as Maple Ridge had some better figures to support the suggestion in the report that there was a subsidy … we were ready, willing and able to meet once we had some better data.

“I don’t know if that analysis was ever completed. We never got word.”

Becker said Pitt Meadows never received a request to meet with Maple Ridge.

Becker said Maple Ridge’s desire for independence could be behind its decision to end the partnership.

He said earlier that Maple Ridge’s growth could make the partnership more unworkable and too costly.

If Maple Ridge builds new recreation facilities farther east, away from Pitt Meadows, while Pitt Meadows still has to pay 20 per cent of the operating costs, a partnership would make less sense for Pitt Meadows.

For example, if Maple Ridge decides to build a new aquatic centre with operating costs of $2 million yearly, then under the joint agreement, Pitt Meadows would have to pay another $400,000 on top of the $2.3 million it already pays.

No decision has been on any new facility in Maple Ridge.

However, once Pitt Meadows begins running its own recreation department and not sharing operating costs, its residents still could use any new Maple Ridge facilities.

Becker said Pitt Meadows could still use some Maple Ridge recreation services.

“There’s nothing to say we couldn’t negotiate a la carte with Maple Ridge.”