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Vancouver Courier
Friday, September 26, 2014
By Sandra Thomas

Extra money for seniors centre could provide safer access

Walk to and from bus stop too far says seniors advocate

Seniors advocate Lorna Gibb argues a new driveway and dedicated seniors entrance would alleviate the long walk up a hill. photo: Dan Toulgoet
Seniors advocate Lorna Gibb argues a new driveway and dedicated seniors entrance would alleviate the long walk up a hill. photo: Dan Toulgoet

VANCOUVER — The weather could not have cooperated more for community advocate Lorna Gibbs during a pre-scheduled walk to demonstrate just how far the bus stop at East 49th Avenue and Kerr Street is from the main entrance to the Killarney Community Centre, which will eventually be shared with a new dedicated seniors facility.

As the skies opened and the rain poured down, the Courier watched as several seniors leaving the centre trudged their way from the parking lot up the long hill towards East 49th Avenue.

"They're carrying umbrellas," said Gibbs. "How would they manage that hill in the rain if they were using walkers?"

While there is a bus stop on East 49th Avenue near the community centre's driveway, for seniors travelling north and south and stopping at Kerr Street, accessing it would mean getting a transfer and waiting for another bus to travel just one block — albeit a long one.

Gibbs wants $1.2 million previously committed by the city go towards creating a new driveway from Kerr Street to the back of the community centre, as well as a new dedicated entrance for seniors separate from the main access.

"The main entrance is so busy, I worry some of the frailer seniors will get knocked down by running children," said Gibbs. "This way seniors would have direct access to the elevators and there could be a roundabout created for the HandyDart to drop them off. They also need a secure parking lot in the back."

The city recently announced it will no longer commit $1.2 million of $3.7 million initially promised towards the long-awaited seniors centre for southeast Vancouver due to the fact the provincial government finally agreed to a long-awaited contribution. In 2009, the park board committed land adjacent to the Killarney Community Centre for the project, and in 2011 the city earmarked $2.5 million in capital funds towards the estimated $7.5 million cost.

In 2012, the provincial government pledged $1.3 million, much less than the $2.5 million hoped for by the city and members of the Seniors' Arts and Cultural Society. When the provincial government continued to drag its feet on the extra funding, city council agreed in February to contribute another $1.2 million.

That announcement followed a $2.5-million commitment from the federal government. But then in April the provincial government made the extra $1.2 million contribution official. Seniors reacted with disappointment in July when the Courier obtained a memo from city manager Penny Ballem to council saying the April commitment from the provincial government eliminated "the need for the additional $1.2-million commitment by council."

And while Gibbs still gives the park board and city council, in particular Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, credit for making the new centre a reality, she can't hide her disappointment that it's likely she and other seniors won't get everything they had hoped for.

But Louie said a new driveway, roundabout and separate entrance were never included in the original plans, estimated at $7.5 million.

"What can I say," said Louie. "We were the first ones to commit to funding and we're the ones who got the feds on board. We're proceeding as originally planned and a new road was never part of that."

He added there are many other facilities across the city, including community centres and libraries, competing for extra funding.

"We're committed to making this project as accessible as possible while bringing it in within the $7.5 million budget," said Louie.

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