Here's a list of the Access To Information requests that are underway as of the date of writing (Nov 2004)
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Playground removal | City Consultants | Park Budgets
City secrets: the list
posted November 22, 2004
1. Since 1999, the City approved over $6 million to replace or repair playgrounds that don't conform to the latest Canadian Standards Association guidelines. Many of the playgrounds in parks as well as schoolyards seem to have been "dumbed down" in the process.
We wondered –
- how dangerous are the playgrounds? What claims have been filed against the city for playground injuries, and for how much? [Access request #04-2055, filed August 12, received notice of delay to Sept.20, no follow-up after that, appealed to Commissioner Cavoukian Nov.10].
- How much does the city have to pay in third-party liability insurance, to protect itself against such claims? [Access request #04-2544, filed August 12, no answer; appeal date passed, so request was re-submitted to the City Nov.15].
- What did the 1998 city playground assessments find, that led to so much destruction? [Access request #04-1319, filed May 20, received Oct.18].
- Which companies got the contracts for those 49 playgrounds that were completely replaced, and how much did the new sets cost? [Access request #04-1580, filed June 18, received July 20.]
- What companies supplied the replacement parts for the other playgrounds, and how much did those parts cost? How was the 15% "contingency" portion spent, mentioned in every playground cost estimate [Access request #04-1587, filed July 8; no answer. Re-submitted Nov.16].
- Since the total playground replacements only account for $1.04 million, what other expenses were incurred in the "safetying" project? For instance, who was paid how much for the "detailed design work" mentioned in city council minutes, and what administrative fee percentage went to the City's own Policy and Development staff ? [Access request #04-2568, filed Oct.12; no answer yet, so this is a "deemed refusal" – appeal to province should be filed by Nov.30].
2. The city publishes an annual list of all the community grants it gives out: who they went to, for how much, and what the project is. Good idea. In the same way, there ought to be an annual list of which consultants got city contracts, for how much, and for what project.
But there's no such list. So we want to begin with Parks and Recreation. We've noticed that there are some consultants' reports gathering dust on shelves and we have to assume that each time a consultant is paid, that money is lost to other parks uses. We protested when City Council approved $803,000 to do a state-of-good- repair audit on parks and recreation buildings, at the same time as the money for actually carrying out even the simplest repairs was often lacking. Our protest fell on deaf ears.
So we want to have a closer look to see what other contracts the city has paid for: do the others make more sense? But we can't look if there's no list to begin with. [Access request #04-1580, filed June 18. Received Sept.13 but very incomplete. Re-filed Nov.16, Access request #04-2949; also Access request #04-1318, filed May 20, received Sept.7. Also Access request # 04-2567, filed October 12, received November 8]. Even though this list is still missing a great deal, what we did find out so far is often interesting.
3. Some of the consultants we came across were a bit puzzling, For instance, John R.Allen Management Consultants, which have advised the city on how to rate staff work, have also spent a lot of time advising the American Army. As well, there seems to be a lot of local government interest in how to monitor both workers and citizens ever more closely. So it makes sense to find out a bit more about individual consultants. For starters, how often did the city hire John Allen, and for what projects? [Access request #04-2804, filed, Nov.1].
4. Dufferin Grove Park has had very little city money put into it since the "friends of the park" formed. Inquiries about paving the park's dirt thoroughfare, so that strollers, wheelchairs, and bicycles wouldn't bog down whenever it rained, always got the same answer: no money. No money to fix broken benches and paint tables, either. Then Andrea Dawber told us about the park levy of .04% that's automatically applied whenever a new development goes up. In addition, if new housing exceeds a neighbourhood's density rules, the developer can be asked to give extra funds for improving nearby parks. It's called "Section 37" money. The idea is to that if more people are going to be using parks in their new neighbourhood, more money can be applied to keeping the parks in good shape. But we've seen no money from either park levies or Section 37, even though new housing developments have been going up, and the park is sometimes very full of people. Where did those funds go? [Access request #04-2616 filed Oct,15. No answer. Now in "deemed refusal" – appeal should go in by Dec.7].
5. Meantime, some parks that did have money budgeted for repairs of improvements, ended up spending double the budgeted amount – how did that happen and where did the money come from? [Access request #04-2946, filed Nov.16.] How much of a project's budget goes into design, how much into administration, how much into materials, how much into labour costs? Is the city getting value for money? [Sample project: swimming pool repairs, including heater replacements, at the Wallace-Emerson Community recreation centre, which took more than six weeks. Access request #04-3947, filed Nov.16].