Vancouver park board still trying to get contracts inked with community-centre associations

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      A majority of community-centre associations did not comply with the September 30, 2017, deadline to sign a new deal with the Vancouver park board.

      Only six of the 19 associations that were offered an updated joint operating agreement for the management of recreation centres across the city have accepted the contract. These are the neighbourhood groups based in Marpole, Douglas Park, Strathcona, Thunderbird, Roundhouse, and Dunbar.

      Ainslie Kwan is a former president of the Killarney Community Centre Society, one of the groups that did not sign the agreement over concerns it gives too much power to the park board.

      “Some of the language is quite strong and does impede on our independence,” Kwan told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Kwan cited as examples provisions that allow the park board to arbitrarily terminate the agreement and evict community-centre associations.

      “It’s about, you know, acknowledging the 60- to 70-year relationship that we had with the park board and how do we continue to move that forward in a respectful way,” Kwan said.

      The City of Vancouver has been trying since the 1990s to update its relationship with community-centre associations that deliver programs in recreation centres owned by the municipality. Most of the agreements date back to 1979.

      In 2013, the park board tried to kick out six “rebel” community associations—Killarney, Hastings, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Riley Park Hillcrest, and Sunset—but was stopped by a court injunction.

      According to Kwan, community-centre associations have received changes in the agreement that were recently proposed by park-board staff in response to concerns about the deal. The groups have sought legal advice on these amendments.

      “We’re now waiting to hear back [from lawyers]…if that language is sufficient enough to satisfy the concerns that we have,” Kwan said.

      At its meeting Monday (October 2), the park board received a quick update from staff about the status of the new joint operating agreements.

      In an interview the day after the meeting, park commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung said that staff are working with the community-centre associations that have not approved the contract.

      The new agreement is supposed to take effect on January 1, 2018, and community-centre associations without an agreement will likely face expulsion.

      Asked what is going to happen to associations that will not enter into a deal with the park board, Kirby-Yung told the Straight by phone: “I think we’re going to end up with the majority of centres signed on to the joint operating agreement, because we’ve had some really positive response.”