01 December 2010

Park board may close washrooms and cut cleaning

Commissioner calls for more council cash

Anyone visiting a city park next year might want to take along a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of disinfectant.

The toilet paper will come in handy if the washroom in the park is closed due to proposed park board cuts and your child is forced to go in the bushes. Since the board is considering reducing the frequency of cleaning washrooms outside the Downtown Eastside, the disinfectant will come in handy.

According to a recent park board staff report, closing washrooms in some parks and cutting back on cleaning could save the board $300,000 of the $1.03 million budget shortfall it's facing in its 2011 operating budget. The city has a $20 million budget shortfall and is asking each of its departments to find ways to cut costs. City council wants to keep the upcoming residential tax increase to two per cent, a goal that means cuts to services across the city.

Green Party park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon says council should increase the number of washrooms in Vancouver instead of closing them by forcing cuts to park board services.

"What are young families with children and older people going to do if they're at a neighbourhood park with no washroom?" asked Mackinnon.

"If someone has a child at a park who has to go, they're going to uses the bushes and that's not healthy," Mackinnon said.

Other cuts being considered include reducing mowing of 14 per cent of the city's passive turf areas, eliminating night security at Andy Livingstone Park, the reduction of flower and shrub beds in downtown parks by 10 per cent, eliminating the budget for community-based park board meetings, reducing community centre staff and introducing new fees for playing fields.

NPA commissioner Ian Robertson said introducing fees for playing fields will push the cost of some sports out of reach for low-income families.

"For some families, Little League is their last affordable sport," said Robertson. "This Vision Vancouver council needs to get its priorities straight and put families before renovations to the mayor's office, chicken coops and bike lanes. We need to protect core services."

Robertson said cuts to the park board's operating budget are four times higher under Vision Vancouver since 2009, at $5.3 million, compared to cuts of $1.2 million in the past eight years combined under COPE and the NPA.

Vision Vancouver park board chair Aaron Jasper said fees for sports fields will be minimal. He noted many other municipalities in Metro Vancouver charge a fee to use their fields.

As for washrooms, Jasper said if the $300,000 doesn't come from closures and reductions in cleaning, it could mean cuts to even more essential services.

"I'm not happy we might have to close washrooms, but there are no good choices left," said Jasper. "What we're facing is a series of bad choices."

Vision Vancouver commissioners Jasper, Sarah Blyth, Constance Barnes and Raj Hundal are asking the Vision Vancouver-dominated council to reconsider the proposed budget shortfall.

"That $1 million target could seriously impair our ability to provide core services," said Jasper.

At Monday night's park board meeting, the board voted to defer a decision on its 2011 operating budget until Dec. 13. A special council meeting on the city's 2011 operating budget for all departments takes place at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Dec. 2, at city hall.


Twitter: @sthomas10

Read more: http://www.vancourier.com/news/Park+board+close+washrooms+cleaning/3910684/story.html#ixzz16sirN8rJ

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