The District of Sooke is bringing its park maintenance back in-house at a savings of $4,146 per year and promises of improved service.
In a report to council Tuesday, chief administrative officer Teresa Sullivan said the district has reviewed the benefit of continuing to contract services for park maintenance.
The district awards seven park maintenance contracts totalling $272,196.31 annually. With the district bringing the function in-house, the cost drops to $267,780.
Under the new plan, the district will hire two full-time employees and two seasonal workers, who will be responsible for public parks, trails, playground and ornamental area maintenance.
The full-time staff will also be required to do some minor road work, clearing and salting roads, branch pick up and removal and beautification projects when park work slows down, such as in winter months.
“It’s going to bring better service to the residents of Sooke,” Sullivan said, adding municipal workers will be able to respond to residents’ complaints and concerns more quickly.
But all didn’t agree.
Both councillors Brenda Parkinson and Ebony Logins questioned the logic of going away from contracts and putting local jobs in jeopardy.
“[We] say we want to keep everyone local, we want people to be able to work here and spend their money here, yet we appear to be taking their jobs away from them.”
It was a sentiment echoed by local council-watcher Gail Hall, who said council has heard from numerous groups over the last several years on the need to encourage small business, and now it looks as if council is attempting to cut away from them.
“I think you need to take a look at this and remember that small business depends on having work. We don’t need any more [district] staff,” she said.
All the contractors are from the Sooke region. (See sidebar)
Coun. Rick Kasper said since 2005 the number of contractors has gone from one to seven, with the same number of parks.
“It has become more of a management issue and potentially creating more problems. We currently have targeted services, not seasonal services.”
Besides hiring staff, the district must buy or lease lawn mowers, hand tools and vehicles. The new parks maintenance department will be located in the public works yard on Kaltasin Road.
The district will provide six months notice to all contractors by June 30. The new department will begin Jan. 1.
Local contractors in the park
A list of contract work for park work within the district of Sooke:
• Public green space – Local company but 50 per cent subcontracted to non-local
• Public trails and walkways – Local company but 50 per cent subcontracted to non-local
• Public space garbage collection – Local, sole proprietor
• Public washroom maintenance – Local, sole proprietor
• Playground inspection and maintenance – Local, sole proprietor
• Ornamental areas – Local, sole proprietor
• John Phillips Memorial Park maintenance – Local, sole proprietor