Claims of an exodus of members from the controversy-plagued Langley Seniors Recreation and Resources Centre have been exaggerated by critics, according to the chairperson of the Langley Senior Resources Society, the non-profit group that operates the facility at 20605 51B Ave.
Shauna Sailer told The Times the membership is down about six per cent, not the 40 per cent drop some have claimed.
“We are running a small margin behind last year’s pace (but) keep in mind the flood we had in December resulted in fewer renewals as our kitchen and some of our programs were affected for nearly two months,” Sailer said.
As of July 21, there had been 889 membership renewals and 161 new sign-ups since Jan. 1, for a total of 1,050, according to the figures provided by Sailer.
During the same period last year, the centre recorded 913 renewals and 205 new members for a total of 1,118.
Sailer predicted the society will likely end the year in the “1,200-1,300 range” as renewals come at different times throughout the year.
“It is also important to recognize that we lose members for a variety of reasons such as a move, no transportation, inability to drive to the centre and attrition,” Sailer said.
Budget-tightening measures imposed by the board produced a backlash that led to a May meeting where voting members defeated a resolution that would have removed the entire board of directors.
The margin was three to one against.
During the May meeting, Sailer said the centre was facing a $95,000 shortfall if it did not take corrective action, but did not go into details.
In response to The Times email query this month, Sailer said the centre suffered a “substantial hit to the operating budget” when it stopped providing day services to the privately-owned Harrison Landing and Harrison Pointe seniors’ residences.
Sailer said the “end of the management contracts with Harrison Landing and Harrison Pointe was a mutual decision between both parties” but it “was not the only factor that caused the deficit.”
She said in order to prevent the projected deficit from happening, the board “took necessary corrective actions aimed to bring the deficit back in line.”
“We took this responsibility very seriously … investigated every part of the Society’s operations, found cost efficiencies that made sense and implemented them immediately.”
Sailer said she, along with board members Les Roberson and Jim McGregor met with Langley City mayor Ted Schaffer and council “and a few representatives from the Township of Langley” a few weeks ago.
“There has been such negative press, gossip and untruths in both of the community newspapers that we needed to clear up the false information and clarify any areas they had concern,” Sailer said.
“We talked about such topics as the Society’s financial status, that our membership registration is stable, that our members are enjoying the special events, bus trips and recreation programs at the centre and that we are forging ahead with some great events and programming for our members.”
Several centre employees have either quit or gone on medical leave since the board appointed new management with a mandate to cut costs, including food expenses for the centre’s café and what was described as “excessive” overtime by employees.
Sharon Birnie, one of the founders of the centre, has asked that her name be removed from the centre’s main meeting hall.
In an interview with The Times, she suggested the City of Langley ought to take over management of the centre. However, the City declined to hear that argument from a delegation of members from the centre.
CAO Francis Cheung said City staff explained that the lease agreement between the municipality and the seniors society doesn’t give the City a say over day-to-day operations.
“We don’t have a role in terms of governing,” Cheung said.
The lease agreement for the property is for 50 years. In addition to donating the land, the city paid $40,000 every year from 1998 to 2014 (plus a top-up $72,000 payment last year) to retire the mortgage on the building.