VANCOUVER The city was expected to approve a motion Tuesday that will help expedite the construction of a new seniors centre for southeast Vancouver.
The motion was to ask council to commit surplus money from the city's operating budget to resolve the funding gap remaining on the estimated $7.5 million project. Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made the announcement Sunday.
Two weeks ago, the federal government announced $2.5 million towards the project, following the city's commitment of $2.5 million in 2011. In 2009, the park board dedicated property adjacent to the Killarney Community Centre for the project and last year the province promised $1.3 million, leaving a $1.2 million shortfall in funding.
"The City of Vancouver's strong budget position allows us to invest in key priorities for the community," said the mayor in a prepared statement.
"Surplus funds from Vancouver's operating budget should be used to ensure that this important new resource for southeast Vancouver seniors is built as soon as possible, building on the $2.5 million investment committed by the city in 2011."
While there are seven seniors centres located west of Cambie Street, there are none in southeast Vancouver, home to one-third, or 27,000, of the city's seniors.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, a longtime supporter of the centre, said he's pleased the project will finally move forward.
"I've been working with Lorna [Gibbs] and others from the southeast part of the city for more than a decade now and I'm delighted we'll finally be able to provide this service these seniors so need," Louie told the Courier Monday. "This comes after such efforts from these seniors."
Louie said the next step is to finalize the city's accounts for 2013, but he's confident there will be at least $2.5 million surplus that can be reallocated. The city then must sign a funding agreement with the federal government.
"But subsequent to that we need to go through a robust design process with the community," said Louie. "We need to determine exactly what it will look like."
Louie hopes the project can be completed as originally planned to include a full kitchen and elevator in a 10,000-square foot facility, while staying within the initial $7.5 million budget.
"But of course if there are other funders out there who want to contribute, that would give me a higher level of confidence," said Louie.
"Because there have likely been some cost escalations."
The mayor's announcement came two days after the B.C. Supreme Court approved a temporary injunction to block the attempted eviction of six community centre associations, including Killarney, by the Vision Vancouver-dominated park board. As well, Saturday was the first day of the controversial closure of Point Grey Road to commuter traffic to make way for a bike lane.
The timing of the announcement was not lost on Ainslie Kwan, president of the Killarney Community Centre Society. "The society hopes that the mayor's motion is not simply a knee-jerk reaction to quell recent bad press resulting from the Supreme Court ruling against the Vision-dominated park board," said Kwan in an email. "That it represents a true and lasting commitment to better supporting seniors."
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