VANCOUVER After promises made to seniors that plans for the Killarney Seniors Centre will continue with a budget surplus, the City of Vancouver is withholding an additional $1.2 million pledge towards the long-awaited project.
The Courier has obtained a July 24 memo by city manager Penny Ballem to council saying that the city's February promise of an additional $1.2 million for the estimated $7.5 million project is unnecessary. The memo notes that the provincial government kicked in an additional $1.2 million pledge in March and eliminated "the need for the additional $1.2 million commitment by council." The $2.5 million the city committed in 2011 to the project will remain.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie said suggestions in January that the project could cost more than $7.5 million were outdated. City staff have undertaken an analysis within the last couple of months and concluded the project can be completed within the initial estimate, he said.
"The allocation by council still exists today but the city manager doesn't believe, based on information from our survey analysis, that it's necessary."
Longtime seniors activist Lorna Gibbs was disappointed with the news despite applauding Louie as a "great supporter" of the seniors centre. She anticipates some amenities would be cut with the loss of the city's $1.2 million.
"The seniors would have liked to have their own exercise room for osteo fitness because the main fitness centre at the community centre is loud noise and great big guys," Gibbs said. "We'd hoped that the roof could be a rooftop deck because we get a beautiful view of the North Shore Mountains and we were thinking about not only for our own use but for rental revenue."
Wai Young, Conservative MP for South Vancouver, hosted a roundtable with seniors recently and said seniors were "distressed" at the news of the $1.2 million withdrawal. After several public meetings with Louie and seniors, Young said Louie has repeatedly reassured seniors the committed funds would not be taken away.
Young told the Courier Thursday the seniors were concerned about the $7.5 million budget set several years ago and brought up the issue during meetings.
"This budget was set in 2009 by the city when they did a preliminary feasibility study," Young said. "That's five years ago. So I'm sure the construction cost has increased over the last five years. So I'm quite surprised they're still using a 2009 figure."
The much-needed 10,000-square-foot seniors centre, equipped with a commercial kitchen and elevator, will be adjacent to the Killarney Community Centre and will serve an estimated 27,000 seniors, or one third of the city's total, who live in southeast Vancouver. This centre would be the first in the southeast compared to the seven seniors centres operating west of Cambie Street.
According to the city memo, construction on the centre is expected to start by March 2016 and should be completed within two years.
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