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CELOS Letters To The City

''From a letter to Brenda Librecz, General Manager, City Of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, September 16, 2005:'' ….our little research group, CELOS, would like to request that you carry out some “due diligence” that seems to be missing, on the '''city rinks/arenas energy retrofit contract with Cinergy/Vestar''' – before you sign off on it. I enclose the results of our research so far, plus the questions that we feel need to be answered.

It may be that this project has the potential of being a giant headache for the City, not only in terms of more bad publicity, but also in terms of its impact on your division. Your front-line staff also seem to have major misgivings – insofar as they even know about the project – and the need to follow up on this may be rather urgent by now.

''From a letter to Elena Gruia, Project Manager, Energy and Waste Management, Corporate Services Department, Facilities and Real Estate Division. Sept. 30, 2005:''' ….When we spoke on the phone yesterday, I said I would write to you about the reasons why we'd like to meet with you. "We" is a small research group CELOS, Centre for Local Research into Public Space, based at Dufferin Grove Park. We've been trying to find more information about the $10.3 million Cinergy rink energy retrofit project for some time. When Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz was meeting with us recently, she mentioned that PFR have not yet "signed off" on the Cinergy project. But then we read the agreement (obtained after two tries, through Freedom of Information), which says the contract with Cinergy was signed on Dec.8 2004. We're confused: is PFR sign-off different than the signing of the agreement?

There are confusing elements in this contract which we need to understand better. I asked you yesterday who the main PFR staff person is, working with you on the Cinergy Project. If this information is public, could you let me know? I think a meeting between our group and that PFR staff person and yourself could perhaps clear up a number of puzzles. Hopefully, the discussion would set our minds at ease about the possiblity that PFR could lose some of their operating funds each year for seven years if the project does not pan out.

Here are some of our concerns:

- It appears that the City could end up having to pay more than the $10.3 million in the contract (referred to as an "estimated cost" in Article 9.01 of the agreement), and there are other puzzling elements to the math.

- The "City representative" has many chances to stumble in this project: any delay of more than 15 days in his/her examination of the very numerous design issues and specific construction proposals means automatic acceptance of the company's work plans.

- The "base year " utility costs are crucial, although the contract seems to allow the baseline to be scrapped in favour of some alternative calculation. In addition, it's unclear how the baseline energy costs were calculated.

In order to follow up on our concerns, our researchers need to examine the following: 1. Base Year numbers for electricity, fuel, and water for each of the 100 city rinks/arenas which are listed as part of the Energy Retrofit Project. 2. The "Concept Reports" for each of the 100 rinks/arenas (or however many have been completed) 3. Which of the Concept Reports have been specifically approved by the City Representative to date 4. Which, if any, of the Concept Reports were automatically approved by the City to date (i.e. because 15 days passed after delivery, without acknowledgment) 5. Costs incurred by Cinergy to date 6. Moneys paid out to Cinergy by the City to date

It's our understanding from reading the Cinergy/City agreement that Cinergy must first submit the "Approved Total Project Scope," and the City must agree to it, before the project goes ahead. Has that occurred? Following your request, I have cc'd this letter to many City staff, including PFR director Kathy Wiele, who is in charge of helping release public information which does not need to go through the Corporate Access office. I look forward to your response and, hopefully, and invitation to meet with you.

''This letter resulted in a phone call from an assistant to Ms.Gruia, who basically said that he was not able to answer these questions for me but would answer them internally. I heard he was invited to an internal meeting about various rink issues, to talk about the project, but did not come.''

''From an e-mail to Mayor David Miller’s office (to his assistant Carmen Smith), October 11, 2005:'' The attached letter (to Cinergy Energy Retrofit Project Manager Elena Gruia) asks a number of very specific questions about this puzzling project for City rinks, for which the City has taken out a loan of $10.3 million (to pay a large American company called Cinergy to do this project). I had heard rumours that the project is ill-conceived, so our research group read as much as we could find in the council minutes, and then we got quite alarmed. Ten days ago I sent the project manager this letter containing very specific questions, with a cc to a number of relevant staff including the general manager of Parks, Forestry and R. The questions have not been answered, but Brenda Librecz (if I understood her right) did tell me that the project is not under her jurisdiction. An even bigger puzzle.

This project ought perhaps to be paused until its merits can be examined. There's a lot of money at stake and if indeed the project is ill-founded, that will be upsetting to citizens if it's left to carry on anyway. (The terms of the agreement involve more than $1 million in parks operating funds being used to pay back the loan every year for seven years, beginning in a couple of years.)

Today one of our researchers delivered our latest park newsletter, containing this story and others, to the city auditor, and to Suzanne Craig (with whom we recently had a very helpful meeting), and to the general manager of Parks Forestry and rec, and to a deputy city manager (Susan Corke). I want to make the mayor's office aware also. ( The "money mysteries" are on page 5 and 6 under the heading "some bad news that has to change").

I think it would be good if several of our researchers could come and meet with you or with another of the mayor's staff. We want to help city staff with this muddle but first there has to be a willingness to collaborate -- that seems to be what's missing. Perhaps your office could help with that.

''Note from Jutta Mason: another CELOS researcher called the mayor’s assistant and asked to make an appointment. The assistant called back about a week later and said she had contacted Brenda Librecz, and that we should follow up directly with her. I called Ms.Librecz’ office and her assistant said she would follow up. There has been no word since then.''

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