John Morrison built up business of volleyball at Ashbridges Bay over 14 yrs
Accomplishments being ignored and was shut out of new contract says Morrison
He owed city money at end of last contract and didn’t bid on new deal
By Kris Scheuer
(Written April 8 for Town Crier.)
John Morrison’s dream of continuing his beach volleyball partnership with the city was spiked when council awarded a new contract to another major player.
The Ontario Volleyball Assocation was the only bidder for the five-year contract to run beach volleyball at Ashbridges Bay and on March 31 the city sealed the new deal.
Morrison’s company TESSC Inc., better known as Not So Pro Sports, has been running beach volleyball at the site with various city permits and contracts for 14 years. His previous city contract expired last September and he has yet to settle up for $327,875 he owes.
But for Morrison that’s where the story begins not where it ends.
“They say pay up your bill and thanks for the last 14 years — don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” said Morrison.Part of his bill was $117,875 for three months lease payments for September through November.
“We were trying to negotiate a new contract and the fact there was a (2009) strike for one third of my summer,” he said.
The 39-day public sector strike meant the city didn’t fulfill some of its contractual obligations to maintain the beaches, he said, so he wanted compensation.
As part of his last contract, he did pay the city $125,000 for a new playground at Ashbridges Bay that was supposed to be built by last fall.
Since that capital project hasn’t materialized, he hoped to carry over a $210,000 payment to renovate the bathing station into a new five-year deal, but was unsuccessful in convincing the city to defer that payment.
Beside the millions he’s paid the city over the years, Morrison also gave $55,000 annually to charities and brought business to the Beach. He said his contract came with added value that is not being recognized.
“In the 1980s when I used to play beach volleyball down there, there were three nets,” said Morrison, whose sports business has 22,000 members.
Now it’s a thriving scene with volleyball leagues and recreational teams. The public also gets free access to almost 100 nets at Ashbridges Bay beach.
The solution he was looking for was one Councillor Bill Saundercook unsuccessfully pushed for: a year lease extension, time to settle up the bill and a new request for proposal that he could also bid on for next season.
Morrison claims he got contradictory info from city staff on whether he was allowed to bid on the new contract that was just awarded considering he still owed money.
However, Councillor Sandra Bussin said this was a fair process.
“It was definitely a proper process,” she said. “Mr. Morrison suggests he was told he couldn’t bid. The parks department refutes that. What we were told at council is yes he could bid, but he had to pay (his previous bill) in full first. He chose not to bid.
“He made that agreement five years ago to make those payments,” she said. “I feel badly for him. He’s made some errors in judgment that have cost him.”
Morrison also said he was shut out from lobbying city officials while the successful bidder was allowed to.
This seems to stem from the fact the lobby registrar Linda Gehrke was unaware there was an open bid process, so she did not shut down lobbying on this issue until after the Ontario Volleyball Association had already met with decision makers.
But the president of the Ontario Volleyball Association Kristine Drakich said what her group was doing wasn’t lobbying.
“There’s a difference between asking for clarification of process and putting forward facts and lobbying,” she said. “At some point there was a recognition there was an (request for proposals) process on and (lobbying) was shutdown.”
The new 2009-2013 contract will mean the not-for-profit volleyball organization pays the city $750,000 to lease the Ashbridges and Woodbine beaches plus a $400,000 capital investment.
“It’s a great opportunity for volleyball in Toronto and Ontario,” Drakich said. “As a provincial sports organization our mandate is to grow volleyball in Ontario.”
The group will hold a series of forums with the community to determine how it can enhance adult and youth volleyball programming.
“We want to maintain the level of programming that has been there,” she said.
And over the next five years, the group intends to grow the program.
In terms of the controversy of the bid, she said it was straightforward from Ontario Volleyball Association’s point of view.
“The city put out a process and we submitted a bid and (we were) successful,” she said. “We want to make it work.”