Proposal for contracted out ski hills has some nervous
City looks to save $700,000 cost to run three facilities
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier March 4)
Clive Kessel is concerned about the future of Earl Bales ski hill.
The city owns and operates ski hills at Earl Bales and Centennial plus the Glen Rouge Campground, but it is considering asking the private sector run these facilities.
“Our fear is no one would take it over,” said Kessel, who pays the city to use the facility for his North York Alpine Race Club. “Then what will the city do?”
The city says its losing $700,000 a year on the three sites and is considering private sector operation as part of their on-going budget discussions.
Kessel says the ski lifts on site are old and costly to maintain plus insurance for the site could be more expensive for a private operator than the city, all factors which may deter a business from coming in to run the hill.“There’s a real risk we’ll lose the facility,” said Kessel.He said the Earl Bales site is busy and could generate more money it was marketed more effectively.
“I don’t think the city does enough to promote it,” he said. “Hardly anyone except school groups and people in North York know it is here.”
Councillor Joe Mihevc said that while the city isn’t considering selling the site, rates will likely go up if the hill is run by a private company.
“Instead of $24 now, for example, it could cost $50 a day such as in private (ski) facilities,” said Mihevc, who sits on the city’s budget committee. “It makes skiing out of reach of poor people.”
“This should only be cut as a last resort,” he said.
If the city continues to run the programs publicly, it would need to cut $700,000 elsewhere in order to balance the operating budget.
City spokesperson Rob Andrusevich said no decisions about the future of the ski hill have been made yet.
“If this is approved, then the scope of the request for proposal would be discussed,” he said.
He said any contract with a third party could result in a situation similar to the city owned, but privately operated golf courses.
“In that case the city sets the green fees and the city staff maintains the course and landscaping,” said Andrusevich.
Even if the ski hills and campground aren’t operated by the city in the future it may still have a say on fees and staffing.
However, Ann Dembinski president of CUPE Local 79 is concerned her members will lose jobs.
Currently about three full time union employees and 360 part timers work at the two ski hills and the campground. Some of the part timers may only work a few hours a week, seasonally doing ski instruction or maintaining the hills.
The city votes on this issue as part of the operating budget March 31 and April 1.