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posted February 12, 2008

February 2008: Outdoor rink ice maintenance cost increase

Cost of Toronto/East York outdoor ice rinks, per rink pad:

Toronto (a.k.a. South District) has 28 outdoor compressor-cooled rink pads at 21 locations (7 are double-pad rinks). It has 23 seasonal rink operators assigned to those rinks. The cost for one season of these zamboni operators is $13,063 per ice pad.

Etobicoke (a.k.a. West District) has 23 outdoor compressor-cooled rink pads at 19 locations (4 are double-pad rinks). It has 28 seasonal rink operators assigned to those rinks. The cost for one season of these zamboni operators is $19,360 per ice pad.

The City is about to switch all the outdoor rinks to the more expensive Etobicoke model. Why?

(Ice maintenance in the 2007/2008 in Etobicoke/West District has not been better than in Toronto/South District.)

Zamboni operator changes - the math.

2007/2008: winter seasonal job selection, covering 41 outdoor rinks (7 North York rinks are not listed in the seasonal jobs because they are permanent caretaker jobs):

51 operators x 14 weeks = 714 weeks total

3 operators x 16 weeks = 48 weeks total

762 total weeks for the whole rink season

Wages: $22.81/hr. x 40 hours/week = $912.40/ week

Plus benefits = $223.53/week

Total wage cost is $1135.93 /per driver week x 762 weeks

Cost of seasonal zamboni operators for this winter's outdoor rink season: $865,584.69

2008/2009: winter zamboni operators, covering 41 outdoor rinks:

Total of 762 weeks for the whole outdoor rink season.

If the operator number stayed the same but the wages went up to $26.93/week* x 40 hours/week = $1077.20/week

Plus benefits = $263.91/week

Total wage cost is $1341.11/ week

Cost of zamboni drivers would be $1,021,928.86

Plus 5 additional zamboni operators in the new plan:

5 x $1341.11 = $6705.55/week x 14 weeks = $93,877.70

Total cost of 2008/2009 season: $1,115,806.56

Increase from this rink season to next: $250,221.87

*New job title: Leadhand (Parks)File #07-CSA14214

From Director of Management Services Ann Ulusoy to Jutta Mason February 19 2008

Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division is in the process of implementing a new frontline structure, which will harmonize crew leadership and support positions across the division with consistent responsibilities and rates of pay, maximize delivery of services, stabilize our workforce, and address supervisor to front-line staff ratios during peak operational periods. The process is budget neutral to the Division.

Your analysis is strictly limited to South and West Districts and operation of the AIRs. First part compares full time and seasonal wages. The structure will eliminate work selection process for AIRs and the rinks will be staffed by permanent employees. The difference between full time and seasonal wages, if any, will be offset by savings outside the South and West AIR portfolio. The second part of your analysis for additional operators will be deployed from North and East Districts and are not new staff positions.

There is no additional expense to the division.

I trust this helps with your research.

From Jutta Mason to Director of Management Services Ann Ulusoy, Feb.19 2008

Thank you for your response, Ann.

However your response does not reassure us about your planned $250,000 increased wage allocation for outdoor rink ice maintenance

The problem is that the CELOS link that I sent you has numbers and your response has none.

The new plan calls for wages to rise by $4.12 an hour for 51 operators, an amount that will be increased when you factor in 24.5% benefits. The plan also seems to increase the zamboni operators for these locations from 51 to 56.

Your assurances that this will not add to the cost of running outdoor rinks needs to be backed up by numbers.

1. What is the new operators-to-rinks ratio under this plan, i.e. how many operators will be at the 49 outdoor rinks, broken down by district? (I.e. for West -- for 19 rinks or 23 individual pads; South -- for 21 rinks or 28 individual pads; North -- for 8 single-pad rinks, and East -- for 1 single-pad rink.)

2. As you point out, our source only addresses 41 out of 49 outdoor rinks. What is the current number of North York and Scarborough outdoor rink zamboni operators?

3. What is the pay rate of these North York and Scarborough zamboni operators?

4. What proportion of their day is caretaker work?

5. Are there two weekday shifts of zamboni operators in North York and in Scarborough?

6. Are North York and Scarborough included in this new outdoor rink plan?

7. What are the winter savings you refer to in the South and West portfolio, that will be effected by having one operator for every "major" outdoor rink across the city, instead of the current level of one operator per two "major" rinks, in South?

8. If full-time existing staff will be taken from North and East to work in South, who will be doing the work they vacated?

I would appreciate your detailed response, since we want to describe the rink staffing situation in more detail in the revised Rink Report. If you would prefer a few of us to come down and meet with you at your office to look at these numbers, we can do that.

From Jutta Mason to Brenda Librecz, General manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Feb.28, 2008.

Paper copies to Councillor Joe Mihevc (Chair, Community Development and Recreation Committee, oversight of outdoor rinks), Councillor Paula Fletcher (Chair of Parks and Environment Committee, oversight of outdoor rinks until Jan.2008), Councillor Shelley Carroll (Budget Chief), Mayor David Miller.

We are writing to ask you to put on hold your plan to hire 59 Parks staff for the new job of Leadhands (Parks), File #07-CSA14214 at the beginning of March, until the implications for the outdoor rink operations have been explored more closely.

Since we first heard about this from Kevin Bowser in January, we have been trying to bring the plan’s very serious problems to the attention of management, but we have been unsuccessful in getting a discussion. Now the deadline for committing to this decision is almost here.

Because this plan significantly increases all zamboni operator wages and adds 5 new operator positions, we calculate that it will add $250,000 to the ice maintenance costs of running the city’s outdoor rinks. Your director of management services wrote to us that this new front line structure is “revenue neutral.” How can this be? The director has not responded to our request to give financial details, rather than mere assurances.

In addition to the financial consequences of applying the more costly Etobicoke-style rink maintenance staffing to the whole city, this plan has serious structural problems. Some of the outdoor rinks are de-facto winter community centres, with multi-faceted demands. The lead hands of the grass-cutter crews will have the winter role of being in charge of these centres, as zamboni drivers. This is not viable in terms of their abilities. In our experience, the Etobicoke system is also very wasteful because of the many hours of down-time the operators have during every shift.

Last spring the Parks and Environment Committee directed your staff to work through the first CELOS outdoor rink report with us. So far Kevin Bowser has been the only management person to meet with us on this subject. Both of his meetings had the tone of “I will explain how we run the rinks.” The collaboration hasn’t begun yet.

Instead of working with us, it now appears that your division is preparing to take a big step backwards, from which it will be hard to recover. Please put this measure on hold now, and schedule the rink meetings we have been asking for.

Jan.22, 2008, E-mail from Jutta Mason to Wynna Brown, assistant to Parks, Forestry and recreation general manager Brenda Librecz

I am pretty mystified -- why were the outdoor rinks moved out of the Parks Committee since they're under Parks (Kevin Bowser)? Was that on staff advice?

Parks is currently setting about to make a huge change that will cost the Division an additional quarter of a million dollars ($250,221.87, by my calculation) for outdoor rink maintenance staffing next season.

Since this change is due to be put in "for life" as Kevin Bowser said at our recent meeting with him, and the hirings are set for March, CELOS will need to discuss the matter with councillors well before the April Community Services and Recreation Committee meeting. The decision to use more zamboni operators for higher pay to do the same amount of work is effectively a policy decision, since that means the PFR budget is going for increases in outdoor rink staffing wage/ staff numbers instead of for the earlier rink openings (at selected major neighbourhood rinks) that many rink users have asked for, for years now.

In addition, this increase in outdoor rink maintenance staffing-costs relates to the additional $5.714 million from increased user fees, that PFR says it has already included in its 2008 operating budget (p.3, "Improving Access to Recreation"). A plan that raises user fees and abolishes priority centres, and then spends a quarter of a million dollars more (for the re-introduction of a very debatable old-order outdoor rink-maintenance approach), needs public discussion with our political representatives.

To make sure that I read the numbers right, I need to see the PFR proposed operating budget document that's going to Budget Committee in the next few weeks. Can you tell me where I can get a copy? I need it before the deputations tomorrow evening, and I can go and pick it up in person at City Hall if you can give me an idea where to get it.

The two charts on which I based my calculations above are this one from the CUPE Local 416 web site: zamboni operator assignments and the City's Lead-hand (Parks) job posting on Dec.7, 2007.

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Content last modified on November 21, 2008, at 06:24 PM EST