The City wants to cut leisure center service, and charge you to part at the LRT stations, seriously.

So the city, faced with a 35 million dollar shortfall needs to try to come closer to breaking even.  The City Administration came up with a plan.  One that horrifies me.  The highlights are:

  • Retire the trolley bus fleet immediately, instead of April 2010
  • Charging people to park at LRT stations
  • charging more for parking at city facilities
  • cutting the hours of operation at the majority of the City leisure centers by 5%
  • Closing an indoor swimming pool

I simply cannot get past the majority of these points.  I am indifferent to the trolley bus situation, and charging more to park at City facilities, while not wonderful, it not surprising.  The other 3, I simply cannot wrap my head around, 8 hours after reading it.

Charging people to park at LRT stations might is an absolutely awful idea.  The City is investing nearly a Billion dollars in the south LRT extension.  I understand that they want people to take a bus to the LRT station, then the LRT, but that simply does not happen right now.  Drive by Clareview, Belvedere, or Stadium stations on a week day and the parking lots are full.  Investing a Billion dollars in a transit system, and then driving people away from using said system to me negates the point of it.  Sure, some people will pay, some people will take the bus, but some people will avoid the system altogether.  That will add more cars to the main arteries in the city.

Reducing hours at pools will affect a lot of people.  let’s assume that 5% equates an hour per day.  That is 1 hour less for staff to work, that is 1 hour less for patrons to use the pool.  It is likely that the pools will open later, which means that people who enjoy a swim or a workout before going to work or school might not be able to do that if they lose an hour of their time. It is a bad customer service move that will only serve to anger the public, and cause more headache than what it is worth in savings.

I have saved the “best” for last.  The City administration is recommending closing one swimming pool entirely.  Which pool they want to close will be announced Wednesday morning, and I will be sure to post here when it is announced.  I don’t even know where to begin.  There are several older facilities in the city, some that do need some heavy maintenance work.  There is no disputing that.  However, taking away a swimming pool would hurt so many communities.  They serve as a gathering place for people of all ages.  During the day senior citizens make the pool their place to go to exercise and socialize.  In the afternoon and early evening children go to learn how to swim, and in the evening kids and teenagers gather to have a fun time in a relatively safe environment.  The use of a swimming pool should not be overlooked.  Whenever a pool closes for longer maintenance, such as the year long shut down of Grand Trunk Leisure Center, the affects are felt across the entire area of the city.  People are forced to go do different facilities, people who usually make visiting the facility 3, 4, 5 times a week a part of their life.  Communities that are built at a pool are ripped apart for long periods of time.  Staff members are displaced.  You could have up to 50 staff members that are laid off, or transferred to other facilities, which then affects the staff there.  Closing a leisure center is not a matter of dollars and cents.  You are talking about the lives you are affecting, which are too numerous to count.

On a personal note, it feels to me like leisure centers are bearing a large brunt of the economic challenges the city is facing.  Part time staffing at most leisure centers has been cut to the minimums, and risk going even lower.  The time is coming where the city risks losing good, skilled, talented people simply because the hours have been cut back too much.  It feels that we have to fight for every inch, every minute of our shifts now.  As much as we try to maintain it, less staff translates very simply into a lower quality of service.  And in the business of being responsible for people’s lives, a lower quality of service is unacceptable.  We are asked to do more with less.  And I don’t know how much longer, as a group, it can go on before something gives.

I hope City Council dismisses the recommendations of the city administration on this one.  This is yet another case of the administration going too far, and making the wrong call.

[Read] – Edmonton Journal article

EDIT(April 15): the city administration announced that the pool they wish to close is the Scona pool. The mayor is vocal in his opposition to this plan. He slammed the city administraion for not "cutting the beraucratic fat" and instead cutting part of the front line. My hope is that city council votes against this plan, and forces the city administration to come up with a plan that works.