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posted March 03, 2008

February 28, 2008: Rink alert: time for emails and/or phone calls

Now that the outdoor rink season is almost over, there are suddenly some dark clouds on the horizon, coming up fast. Parks management has a restructuring plan, which may be put in place as early as this week. They want to put the lead hands of the summer grass-cutting crews in charge of the all the city's outdoor ice rinks, as zamboni operators, in winters from now on, permanently. This is to be accompanied by a significant increase in wages and an increase in the numbers of zamboni operators. We calculate the increase in outdoor ice rink maintenance costs (same number of rinks) at $250,000: Increase In Rink Costs. That seems like a bad idea.

We have brought up this problem all over the place since we learned about the plan two months ago, without results. On February 5 we deputed to the Budget Committee about the additional expenditure (not mentioned in the budget), without any result. We wrote to the director of management services about it, but when she responded after a long delay, she said the restructuring is actually "revenue neutral." However she declined to give actual numbers. It's unclear to us whether she or her colleagues know the numbers. 1. Since there are many other problems with Parks, Forestry and Recreations budgeting, it seems very likely that this additional expense will result in a cutback in the rink season next winter, to cover the extra wage cost. 2. Since the new jobs will be permanent, it is also likely that the resulting rink season cuts will affect every year after this. 3. Putting a lead hand of the grass cutting crews in charge of each rink doesn't make organizational sense.

Last Friday I wrote a letter to Brenda Librecz, the general manager of this division, asking her to put the restructuring hirings on hold until the financial and organizational consequences can be examined more carefully. We also hand-delivered copies of this letter to Councillor Mihevc (chair of the Recreation Committee), Councillor Fletcher (chair of the Parks Committee, Councillor Carrol (chair of the Budget Committee), and to the Mayor's office.

Please write to these same people, and to your councillor, media friends, anyone interested, to back up this request (links below). The city should to put the "lead hands" restructuring plan on hold, to explore the consequences for outdoor rinks more carefully, with rink users as well as staff.

This season's revised CELOS Outdoor Rink Report, now covering 48 city outdoor rinks, is almost done. It has lots of good suggestions, from rink users and front-line staff all over the city, for making the rinks run better, without costing more. (We hope to have it posted on cityrinks.ca in a week, with individual rink report cards.) Neither the Parks, Forestry and Recreation management, nor the council committees, have engaged with CELOS on our rink reports, but it's time.

People to write to: General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation Brenda Librecz:

Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee Paula Fletcher:

Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee (recently put in charge of outdoor rinks oversight) Joe Mihevc:

Chair of the Budget Committee Councillor Shelley Carroll:

Mayor David Miller:

I've cc'd this to Councillor Adam Giambrone since he's the councillor in my ward -- I suggest you do the same with your ward's councillor and any other councillors you know, who care about the outdoor rinks. And forward your e-mail to me if you like -- let me know if we can post your letter.

Jutta Mason


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Content last modified on March 08, 2008, at 02:48 PM EST