The City of Maple Ridge is considering partnering with the YMCA in operating new Albion Community Centre. (Contributed)

Council looking at YMCA running new Albion Community Centre

Talks underway with school board too, for 104th Avenue site

Signing a deal to have the YMCA operate the new Albion Community Centre could cost the city $100,000 more per a year, than if the city ran the centre itself, says a Jan. 23 staff report.

The report sketches out the basics of a partnership between the City of Maple Ridge and the YMCA for running the new $10-million facility, planned for 104th Avenue, east of 240th Street.

Building the facility is subject to the current alternative approval process which could derail the project if more than 10 per cent of voters say no to borrowing for the building, though the city likely would find another funding source in order to build the project would complement a new elementary school that’s planned for the same site.

“For an extra $100,000 a year, I’d want to make sure there’s a very big value-added to this partnership,” said Coun. Craig Speirs at council’s Jan. 23 workshop. That adds up to another million dollars over 10 years, he pointed out.

Council has to know what it’s getting, he added.

According to the report, a partnership between the city and the Y would require up to a $700,000-a-year operating subsidy from the city. That is $100,000 more than the original estimate of operating costs. The deal would also mean the city would not be able to save money for the 10 years that the subsidy would be paid.

But Coun. Gordy Robson said later that the required subsidy could be less than $700,000, narrowing the gap between the costs of a city-run facility and one run by the Y. The YMCA has better courses and programs than those offered by the city, he said.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve got the Y involved in our community. They have so many things to offer to a community.”

Maple Ridge and the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District are working on designs for the site which will contain both an elementary school and community centre.Involving the Y would require a three-way partnership between the city, school district and the YMCA.

Under the proposed agreement, the city would build and own the Albion Community Centre but the YMCA would operate the new centre as a YMCA building and offer a variety of rec programs, using both the new rec centre and the new gymnasium that would be part of the new elementary school.

The Y also would have to be able to access the $700,000 subsidy from the city, on an as-needed basis, for 10 years, and retain revenues from the programs that it offers.

The agreement is also vague on who would pay to equip the centre with furniture and sports equipment. The agreement says the YMCA will “consider the feasibility” of fundraising for that, although nothing definite is planned. If that happens, that would benefit the city.

If approved, YMCA would offer programs that would differ from the programs that people said they wanted in the public consultation process, says a staff report.

Coun. Bob Masse said the financial benefits of partnering with the Y aren’t as compelling as he thought they’d be. He thought the Y would be putting capital costs into the building.

But Coun. Tyler Shymkiw said a partnership with the Y could lead to other future projects where the Y could contribute capital costs, such as for a new pool.

“I’m happy to move this forward and see how it progresses.”

He said the $700,000 and $600,000 figures are early estimates and “relatively meaningless” at this point, with more definite numbers possible later.

Mayor Nicole Read said the Y has lots of expertise in offering programs. “I’m looking forward to this continued conversation.”

Coun. Kiersten Duncan said the Y doesn’t pay its staff as much as the city does. “I think the YMCA does tremendous work. They don’t necessarily pay as high as we would hope, when we’re looking at attracting good jobs to the communit. It’s just something to keep in mind.”

But Shymkiw said the city would usually pay better wages for any service than those paid by an outside agency. “I think we have still look at benefits to the taxpayer.”

Council decided to start a tri-partite discussion between the school district, the YMCA and the city.

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