City of Edmonton taking a swing at privatizing golf course operations, council approves moving ahead on 16 recommended 'reimagine' actions

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Edmonton city councillors approved moving forward on 16 of 18 actions to “reimagine” city services in an effort to limit future property tax increases for residents, despite pushback from unions.

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As a result of council’s decision Wednesday, the city will now develop an expression of interest in 2022 to outsource operations of its three golf courses, Rundle, Victoria and Riverside. A business case developed by consultant KPMG determined this action could save the city about $1.3 million over the next five years as cost recovery at all three courses have declined since 2015.

The city would continue to retain ownership of the courses and land and they would remain fully public if a private operator is found to benefit cost recovery. But, privatization will have an impact on six full-time permanent employees and 20 temporary employees with the city. During a public hearing last week, the unions representing city workers fought back against the plans to privatize operations and impact city jobs.

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“Based on the analysis completed, the city should consider outsourcing the operations of its three golf courses. The three golf courses identified could be bundled as a single contract, to offset anticipated operating losses from the Rundle Park course,” KMPG said in its report.

Initially, city manager Andre Corbould put forward 18 recommended actions that could save the city just under $16 million until 2026. Although that would only amount to about a one per cent reduction in the tax levy over the five-year period, Corbould said it is important for the city to find efficiencies and savings where possible coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council did decide to halt moving forward on the plan to introduce parking fees at five popular city sites and asked for the discussion to be renewed next spring when a larger public parking policy is brought before council. Also on Wednesday, council asked city officials to do more work and engagement on a pilot proposal to remove one pumper truck at two central Edmonton fire stations and replace it with a three-person medical response unit.

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Other actions moving forward include a reduction in recreation program offerings, a plan for increased naturalization, a new strategy to improve the financial performance of single-purpose recreation centres and a plan to contract out operations of the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre when it’s built.

The city will report back on the process of all these actions during the fall budget discussion.

Contracting out transit cleaning

The City of Edmonton will move forward with a request for proposals to contract out more than 100 transit cleaning and maintenance positions after a motion seeking to reverse course was ruled out of order by Mayor Don Iveson.

Outsourcing this work is expected to save the city $1.2 million annually, as approved through the fall budget adjustment. But Coun. Aaron Paquette wanted to revisit this plan to save the in-house jobs for the employees who have been working on the front lines throughout the pandemic. His motion asked for the city to pause the request for proposals to investigate alternative funding options to maintain the full-time positions.

The motion was ruled out of order by Iveson, noting that it had to state a funding source at this time and one wasn’t provided.

“I’m extremely disappointed and I’m just thinking about those workers and how they were are front-line workers all through the pandemic and I just think that it’s heartbreaking that this is the result,” Paquette said. “In my opinion, there was money in the system and I thought it would have made sense to take a look at it.”

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3 

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