Maple Ridge council voted unanimously Tuesday to keep the new Albion Community Centre a city-run facility. Council considered a staff report that gave council a choice between that or asking for proposals for an outside agency to run the new centre. Staff in a Feb. 25 council report though said a city-run facility would give more control.
“I’m happy to support Option A, to keep the facility run by the city service model,” said Coun. Ryan Svendsen.
He said as a 26-year-resident of Maple Ridge, first as a youth and then as a parent, that recreation services have been “amazing” adding that he’s never wanted an outside agency to run the centre nor did he get the impression that other residents did either.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees has been campaigning for municipal operation of the facility and claiming the city in 2017 was considering contracting out the operation to the YMCA and had not followed proper bidding procedures, citing internal e-mails.
However, Mayor Mike Morden said earlier that was all done by the previous council and seemed to consist of preliminary discussions only.
Coun. Chelsa Meadus said she’s been trying to understand the issue since she was elected in 2018 and trying to understand the previous council’s thinking, adding that the union was able to get information she wasn’t able to.
“I apologize to the union for the length of time it took to get here,” she said of the staff report.
“I apologize to all the citizens who wrote … about outsourcing,” she added.
Meadus also mentioned the several awards that city-run facilities have received and testimonies from adults who were helped by the Greg Moore Youth Centre. “To consider anyone else as an operator for the Albion Community Centre just doesn’t make sense for me.”
Coun. Judy Dueck said that she should have spoken out earlier that she supported a city-run facility, adding she was waiting for more information. “We now have the complete picture. It re-affirms how I felt a year ago,” Dueck said.
The amount of support public support via e-mails for a city-run facility, along with the information provided in the report, led Coun. Ahmed Yousef to support that option. “Of course, it plays a large part in our decision making.”
Contracting out the operation was just an option to consider but Yousef wanted to get as much information as possible before making a decision.
“Now knowing what I know and having the input from the community, of course it makes sense to go with the staff-run facility versus going with a third party,” Yousef said. “Now, we’re just looking forward to cutting the ribbon.”
Morden added that council has always been supportive of an open procurement process.
The Feb. 25 staff report said that in 2018, council had asked staff to do a request for expressions of interest for operating the facility. However, council also asked staff during this year’s business planning to research how the city could operate the centre itself – before deciding whether to issue an request for outside proposals.
The report said that if the city operates the centre, it will make it easier for people to register for using other facilities. A city operated model also would be open seven days a week, and provide low-barrier wellness and fitness classes and programming for day camps, as well as first-aid courses, babysitting courses and parent/child activities., said the report, It could also offer rental space for non-profit groups and arts and sports groups.
“Council may choose to operate this new facility directly, which staff believe would provide a higher level of control of the facility maintenance and the services provided,” said the report.
A city-run facility could cost about $653,000 to operate each year.
The centre opens some time next year next to the new cusuenela elementary on 104th Avenue.