Welles­ley points to cost sav­ings in cut­ting role of “net movers” at its are­nas

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - VERON­ICA REINER

LOOK­ING TO TRIM ITS re­cre­ation bud­get, Welles­ley will re­duce the amount of part-time work at its are­nas. Specif­i­cally, cut­ting the hours of work­ers known as “net movers,” the ones re­spon­si­ble for re­mov­ing the nets from the rink when the ice is be­ing resur­faced and then putting them back in place.

The town­ship ex­pects to save about $12,500 an­nu­ally by hav­ing the work done by the time­keep­ers at Twin Cen­tre Mi­nor Hockey games.

Tues­day night’s coun­cil de­ci­sion was not with­out con­tro­versy, how­ever, as res­i­dents de­cried the loss of job op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents and young peo­ple.

“We live in a small town with no pub­lic trans­porta­tion and a lim­ited num­ber of op­tions for young peo­ple to work,” said Welles­ley res­i­dent Jen­nifer Kays Som­mer in an email to coun­cil. “I know the bud­get is im­por­tant. So be­yond safety and em­ploy­ment, fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity is com­mend­able. But could we look at other so­lu­tions?”

The stu­dent job is­sue was echoed in a let­ter from town­ship res­i­dent Donna Her­rgott.

“My con­cern is for the lack of em­ploy­ment in our area for stu­dents and/ or peo­ple look­ing for a part-time job, now that the town­ship has de­cided not to have net movers or have the food booths open.”

For its part, the town­ship of­fi­cials main­tained that it does its best to em­ploy stu­dents, but chal­lenged the idea that it was their role to pro­vide youth em­ploy­ment.

“One of the things that I heard time and time again, is that it’s the town­ship’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide jobs for the youth,” said Mayor Joe Nowak. “And I’m not sure whether that is ac­cu­rate or not, whether it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity. It’s nice when we can do it. But to say that it’s a part of the way we’re sup­posed to act is, I think, not quite ac­cu­rate.”

“The town­ship does try to em­ploy stu­dents where we can,” added Rik Louwagie, the town­ship’s chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer. “For ex­am­ple, last sum­mer we hired an in­di­vid­ual three to four months that took care of flower wa­ter­ing and grass treat­ment. That in­di­vid­ual was full-time for four months.”

Cost was a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in the de­ci­sion. On top of wages of $13.37 to $14.24 per hour, which amounted to $11,172 last year, the town­ship was re­spon­si­ble for de­duc­tions such as EI and CPP and va­ca­tion pay that added an­other $1,300 to the to­tal.

The town­ship also noted the net movers’ job in­volves only a few min­utes of work dur­ing each hour of ice time, though they’re paid for the full hour.

In re­sponse, Kays Som­mer sug­gested that other tasks be of­fered to those do­ing the job.

“Be­yond keep­ing the stands and win­dows and floors cleaned, if the youth aren’t ‘busy’ on their shift, they could go out­side the build­ings and pick up lit­ter around the are­nas and even as far as the play­grounds – pro­mot­ing an even cleaner and love­lier Town­ship of Welles­ley,” she said.

Of­fi­cials noted, how­ever, that there are lim­its on the ex­tra du­ties that could be as­signed to net movers, as full-time staff are avail­able to keep the build­ing in an or­derly fash­ion. That said, the re­port de­ter­mined that dur­ing high-traf­fic events, such as Ap­ple­jacks’ games, tour­na­ments and even mi­nor hockey games, there is plenty of more work for a net mover. When there is no net mover present, the fa­cil­ity op­er­a­tor will per­form the task in­stead.

Ini­tially, the town­ship sug­gested that ref­er­ees move the nets, as is the prac­tice in other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, but the lo­cal ref­er­ees felt it was not their re­spon­si­bil­ity. Twin Cen­tre Mi­nor Hockey has agreed to have their time­keep­ers move nets if the town­ship pro­vided proper safety gear and placed them un­der the town­ship’s in­sur­ance pol­icy as vol­un­teers, to which Welles­ley agreed.

Louwagie noted that there is no con­sen­sus for how this is­sue was han­dled across the prov­ince.

“I did have Dan (fa­cil­i­ties main­te­nance co­or­di­na­tor Dan Mikel) sur­vey the other re­cre­ation de­part­ments in the prov­ince,” said Louwagie at Tues­day’s coun­cil meet­ing. “He sent it to ev­ery re­cre­ation di­rec­tor through the ORFA (On­tario Re­cre­ation Fa­cil­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion) group. And got sev­eral re­sponses back, and the re­sults were all over the map. Some had ref­er­ees do it; some had net movers, some just had the fa­cil­ity op­er­a­tor. There was no con­sis­tency.”

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