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Abbotsford mayor backs YMCA plan

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman is throwing his support behind a proposed YMCA construction project that would cost the city approximately $17.5 million.

The project, which was first proposed in 2010, was originally slated to cost $30 million, with the city providing half of the funding. The price tag is now expected to be about $35 million.

“I am in support of it. What the city has to do is find a way to get our share,” said Banman, who noted he was speaking for himself, and not on behalf of council.

No agreement or decision has yet been reached. He said the project is still in the conceptual stage and too many “pieces of the puzzle” are missing, including input from the public.

Currently there is only a memorandum of understanding between the YMCA and the city, as well as Fraser Health, which would donate the land that housed the former MSA Hospital.

With the city currently behind on pools and recreation facilities, Banman said this could be a “fantastic way to look after the taxpayers’ dollars.”

“This is a really, really smart way to spend money for the city because we are basically spending 50 cent dollars.”

With a projected opening in 2016, the YMCA would pay for the facility’s operating costs, which is another incentive for the city.

“It would be wrong and inappropriate for the city not to investigate something like this, when somebody is offering you a $17-million gift. I owe it to the taxpayers to find a way to try and make this work if that’s what they wish,” said Banman.

City manager Frank Pizzuto said staff will have to demonstrate to council how the funding can be put into the five-year capital plan.

He said it’s difficult to get an exact figure, because the project is still in such an early stage.

“I think if we say that our contribution is $17.5 million, then we’ll say we have to do it within that, whatever it takes,” said Pizzuto.

The new building is expected to be approximately 60,000 square feet, with a pool, multi-purpose gymnasiums and child care services.

Council is scheduled to debate the 2013 budget during the next six weeks.

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