Vancouver park board and community-centre associations have resumed talking

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      The simmering dispute between the Vancouver park board and community-centre associations over the operation of recreation facilities has been prevented from spilling over.

      Park commissioners have deferred a decision on a new joint operating agreement that community-centre associations previously vowed to reject.

      Commissioners were supposed to vote on a deal Monday (March 6) but chose to send the contract back to staff. More important, the board heeded the call by community-centre associations to have lawyers from both parties discuss outstanding disagreements.

      “We really want this to be a careful document that everybody feels they’re respected and that they’re heard,” vice chair Erin Shum told the Straight in a phone interview.

      According to Shum, a new version is expected to be presented to the board on April 10. With city and community-centre association lawyers working together, Shum said that both sides may finally come to an agreement.

      The past and current park boards have been trying to seal a new pact with 20 community-centre associations regarding their joint operation of recreation complexes across the city. In 2013, the park board at the time tried to evict six associations from their respective centres but was stopped by a court injunction.

      Most of the existing operating agreements date back to 1979. The city has been trying to revamp these deals since the 1990s.

      A majority of the community-centre associations have told the present board that language in the current draft of a new agreement undermines their independence and their ability to serve their constituencies.

      Sherry Breshears, president of the Hastings Community Association, said that she is “encouraged” by the move taken by park commissioners on March 6.

      “They listened to us when we were trying to communicate to them very clearly that we need to resolve some issues from the legal perspective,” she told the Straight.