It took the board of The Centre — now rebranded as Qmunity — only 45 minutes to get through its Jun 18 annual general meeting, which included the election of new officers but never addressed the hotly debated issue of the organization’s possible relocation out of the gay village.
Board documents distributed before the meeting started addressed the negative effects of the economic recession on the organization’s donation and sponsorship base but remained silent on the location issue — save for one paragraph labelled “Challenges” in the executive director’s report.
“A development project that had potential for a new space for The Centre/Qmunity fell through,” the report states, “however, there are other similar amenity space possibilities on the horizon and we work closely with city staff to explore all such options.”
No specifics are given regarding other possible spaces.
The board chair’s report does not address relocation at all.
In April, news surfaced that The Centre was considering a move to reduce overhead facility costs, with relocation to Burrard and 7th as one of the possible options.
Lawyer barbara findlay was among the community members who were swift to condemn that option at an Apr 16 Centre board meeting, saying such a move would kill The Centre.
Since then several community members have called for a community consultation.
Board co-chair Craig Maynard did ask if there were any items the gathered membership wanted to bring up under new business, but there were no requests from the floor for any additions to the agenda.
Maynard then presented each of the reports on paper, gave the members a few minutes to peruse them and called for a vote of acceptance.
The Centre’s annual general meeting felt “a little bit rubberstamped,” said one attendee, Daniel, who asked that his last name not be used. He said he would have liked to see an oral presentation as opposed to a quiet perusal of written reports.
“The whole process went through so quietly, not a lot of discussion, not a lot said,” he noted. “Not that I’m looking for people to have a fight, but it was quiet, wasn’t it?”
“I would have liked to know [about] the location issue, where they stand. That hasn’t been very clear as to where they stand,” Daniel continued.
“I use the Bute St clinic, that’s why location concerns me,” he added.
Another attendee who didn’t want his name used at all said he was also surprised that there was no update about relocation and that none of the gathered membership raised the issue.
The Centre feels like it’s running a realty office, said Maynard when asked for an update on relocation at the Qmunity launch Jun 15.
“We are getting as much as information as we can but again, no specifics have been decided — Burrard and 7th or any other location,” he said. “There’s just more work to be done. The market, the head lease space and sublease space markets are constantly changing. If The Centre board is to make a good financial decision for the members and for the community, we have to make sure we understand what our options are financially and physically,” he said.
“So no decisions have been made. I don’t think anything is going to be made in the very near future — so I’ll say, nothing further on Burrard and 7 or nothing specific on any other location,” Maynard reiterated.
As for the St John’s United Church site on Comox and Broughton Sts, which several community members have encouraged The Centre to pursue with other community partners, Maynard would only say that discussions have so far been of the noncommittal kind.
“All we’ve had right now is initial discussions with Gordon Neighbourhood House and they’re sort of conceptual discussions,” he noted.
“Our executive director has had some initial discussions with Gordon Neighbourhood House, [with] their executive director. Basically I think at that stage of the game, it’s whether the groups feel like they would work together conceptually and seeing if there is basis for a bit of a beginning and that’s the nature of the conversations you have — what would you want, what would we want, how do you think it might happen, the revenue streams,” Maynard elaborated.
Asked what kind of financing The Centre/Qmunity can bring to the project, Maynard referred to the third phase of a feasibility study, begun in 2006, which was supposed to determine public and community willingness to fund a new facility.
Asked if a community-wide consultation could be a useful gauge of that willingness, Maynard says it would have a year ago. “But a year ago, we were looking at Burrard and Davie where it was a different financial arrangement,” he explained.
“So we suspended the third phase because the likelihood was we weren’t going to be buying a property of our own; we were going to become a lease. What we would have had to have done is come up with money for a sinking fund to pay for costs in the future.”
While the donor base is known anecdotally, he said, the city would have required a thorough analysis of the types of donors who would contribute to the project.
With the onset of the economic downturn, he noted, everybody’s ability to donate has dramatically changed.
“If we had proceeded we would have essentially wound up with false data that we couldn’t use later. To do it now we have to have a sense of what is the project we’re building,” Maynard added, taking into consideration the current economic landscape.
According to the treasurer’s report, The Centre incurred a net loss of just over $25,000 in 2008. It noted that grants and donations fell in 2008 with government grants falling by a little over $20,000.
“This was compounded by reduced donations of approximately $8,000 from the prior year,” the report states. That loss was offset by an increase in funding as a result of volunteer assistance and community fundraising events, the report adds.