EDITORIAL: Seek proper input

By the time this edition of The News is on the street, Abbotsford city council will likely have made a decision last night (Monday) on whether to approve a partnership with the YMCA to build a new facility here.

The proposal has been in the works for years, with council delaying a vote on the project last week in order to have attendance by all councillors.

Last Thursday, city hall suddenly announced that a public input session on the proposal would be added to the agenda of a special executive council meeting slated for 3 p.m. Monday.

Ostensibly, it was an effort to give taxpayers an additional opportunity to voice their opinion on this $17.5-million capital investment, which represents half of the cost of constructing the facility. The YMCA would put up the other half.

However, given the late notice of the meeting, and the scheduled time, it wasn’t geared to getting the most input possible. Most people are still working at that time, or need more advance notice to attend.

This invitation for input has the appearance of being more of a political gesture than a sincere effort at gathering public opinion.

This is a controversial project for several reasons, not the least of which is that the city would be providing a great deal of scarce money for a facility for which it holds no equity. The Y would own the building.

Mayor Bruce Banman has said a positive vote by council does not make the YMCA facility a done deal. Rather, it just means it will be added to the budget.

As we have pointed out in this space previously, Abbotsford faces some serious fiscal realities, which must be recognized.

If council does vote in favour of the project, it should then schedule a series of public meetings to hear the opinions of taxpayers, and consider those in the context of budgetary deliberations.

After all, what is added to a budget can also be taken out.

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