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Vancouver park board terminates agreement with rebel community centres

The Vancouver park board plans to take control of the six community centre associations that recently launched a lawsuit against the board citing breaches of the standing and interim joint operating agreement.
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The Vancouver park board plans to take control of the six community centre associations that recently launched a lawsuit against the board over the new OneCard program.

The Vancouver park board plans to take control of the six community centre associations that recently launched a lawsuit against the board citing breaches of the standing and interim joint operating agreement.

In the letter of notice to the Riley Park Community Centre dated Aug. 29, park board general manager Malcolm Bromley wrote in part, "The allegations brought forward by the association are a challenge to the right of the elected park board to set a public policy agenda on behalf of citizens and ends our ability to have a constructive relationship with the association. As an elected board with a mandate to serve the best interest of the public, the park board cannot accept this.  

"The JOA provides that three (3) months written notice must be provided by either party in order to terminate the JOA. Due to the recent legal actions of the association, it is no longer in the best interests of the public to continue the park board’s relationship with the association and the park board is compelled to terminate the JOA. Accordingly, the park board hereby gives notice to the Association, effective as of the date of this letter, that pursuant to section 26 of the JOA the Park Board hereby terminates the JOA effective December 31, 2013...” 

The same letter was sent to Killarney, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Hastings and Sunset community centre associations.

In a news release dated the same day, Vision Vancouver park board chair Sarah Blyth said it will be "business as usual" at those six centres from now through Dec. 31.

"The Vancouver park board’s primary interest lies with providing quality services to our residents and protecting the interests of taxpayers in our communities who have invested millions of dollars and volunteer hours to build our outstanding network of community centres throughout our city," Blyth wrote.

Jesse Johl, president of the Riley Park Community Centre Association disagrees.

"They are going to disregard the 80 years of community service volunteers have dedicated to these centres," said Johl. "The programs we offer for seniors, youth and single moms are heavily subsidized by the association so for them to say it's going to be business as usual is ridiculous. Of all of those programs developed, 95 per cent of them were created by the associations. Even the preschools were developed by the associations so for them to say it's going to be business as usual is just not the case."

Johl said the ability of the associations to recruit volunteers has saved the park board millions of dollars, a resource he argued will be lost.

"I'm shocked they're trying to do this," said Johl, who added the six associations are waiting to confer with their lawyer before deciding their next step.

According to Blyth, a transition plan for operations past Dec. 31 has been developed by park board senior staff and approved by the board. 

"It is the clear intention of the park board to establish by fall 2014 a new arrangement with a community organization to work under a new JOA with park board on delivering recreation services in these six local community centres." 

The first step in the community centres associations lawsuit goes to B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday, Sept. 3.

sthomas@vancourier.com

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