Mayor Henry Braun said he hasn’t been surprised by an online public opinion backlash spurred by council’s decision to accept $1.3 million from Kinder Morgan to pay for a new clubhouse at the city-owned Ledgeview Golf and Country Club.
Council ratified an amenity agreement with the pipeline company Monday, with only Coun. Patricia Ross opposed. The agreement, which depends on the approval of the pipeline by the National Energy Board (NEB) and the federal government, has been sharply criticized by online commenters, but Braun said much of that opposition stems from opposition to the pipeline itself.
He reiterated the need to improve Ledgeview, which is owned by the city and managed by the Ledgeview Golf Society, which last year paid the city $40,000 in rent. The current clubhouse has been described by councillors as a “renovated old house.”
He said the agreement – which had been in the works for some time – has no connection to the city’s position regarding the pipeline itself, and was ratified only after the city had filed its position with the NEB.
“It’s always about timing. If you wait too long, you don’t get anything,” said Braun, who called the clubhouse a “gift” and said it was “accepted without any strings attached.”
Braun also said the money for the clubhouse was by far the best deal offered by Kinder Morgan. The agreement was negotiated by city staff, but Braun said the other amenity options presented to Abbotsford for funding by Kinder Morgan were substantially less valuable than the $1.3 million clubhouse. The next most valuable proposal by Kinder Morgan was for less than half the clubhouse offer, he said.
“If we can get $1.3 million, why would we accept $600,000 for something else?” Braun said. The options given to the city have not been disclosed.
Braun said Kinder Morgan had certain criteria for the projects it was willing to fund. The agreements, which have been signed with many other municipalities, are focused on community amenities, he noted, and the company was not offering to pay for city services such as road upkeep.