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April 11, 2019: Boilerplate and red herrings

Jutta Mason


Boilerplate (wikipedia): "...any written text (copy) that can be reused in new contexts or applications without significant changes to the original....[in the case of a contract] the terms and conditions of the contract are set by one of the parties, and the other party has little or no ability to negotiate..."

Red herring (wikipedia): "In fiction and non-fiction a red herring may be intentionally used by the writer to plant a false clue that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion."

Instead of answering people's request for specifics about what elements of the rink do not meet the building code or city regulations, city staff gave boilerplate answers.

City staff wrote

It is the City's responsibility to ensure its publicly accessed facilities are compliant to all current and applicable health and safety regulations, and codes including the Ontario Building Code, ASHRAE Energy Codes, Accessibility Guidelines, etc.

But that turns out to be a red herring, since compliance with the current code is only required when there’s a renovation or replacement project. Nobody asked for that project, it was helicoptered in by Parks and Rec Capital Projects. (See one possible reason why.)

City staff wrote

1. -- Numerous building systems (mechanical and electrical) within the Clubhouse have reached the end of their life cycle

(but they give no specifics)

2. -- the "systems" will be replaced in order to avoid system failure and disruption in use of the facility

(but they say the rink and clubhouse will be closed from February 2020 to December 2021)

3. the 2014 SOGR report "and an additional report in December 2018," confirm that the refrigeration equipment that operates Dufferin Grove Park's artificial ice rink is at the end of its 25-year life cycle"

(but the SOGR report is full of errors [more details here] because the engineers were told that nothing had been replaced since 1993 -- and the December 2018 report is not public)

4. -- "we allocate budget for the replacement of both equipment and rink concrete slab at the same time to maximize efficiency and minimize disruption to the public."

(but see #2)

5. -- "The four corners of the current ice rink are too tight for the Zamboni to effectively resurface these corners, leaving areas of ice rough and uneven."

(but there's lots of disagreement about the rough ice from skaters in the community letters here.)

6. -- "the entire ice rink’s concrete slab is almost at the end of its life cycle, but without a thorough test cut through the pipes and concrete slab, the condition remains unknown. A core cut test would irreparably damage the pipes"

(but nobody needs to cut into the slab, that's another red herring. It's easy to see when a problem develops with a pipe because there's a melt line on the ice. When it happened at Dufferin Rink about 15 years ago, several small areas of concrete were removed and the pipe was repaired. It took 2 weeks out of the rink season.)

7. -- replacing the rinks every 20 - 25 years "ensures the new system will work properly with all new pipes and header valves in the slab"

(but there is often trouble with new rinks -- brand new rinks at McCowan and Dieppe had to be shut again for repairs right away, new-ish rinks like Wallace and Giovanni Caboto had troubles, College Park skating trail couldn't open at all this year, despite brand new pipes and a CO2 plant -- whereas Dufferin Grove has a very good reputation -- don't fix what ain't broke!)

8. -- rebuilding the rink from scratch will "keep maintenance and operation costs down with replacement of dasher boards, gates, fences and lights"

(but that's nonsense -- dasher boards, gates, fences and light have been replaced a number if times, just as part of normal maintenance -- it takes a few days in the off-season, no barrier to use)


As a "community resource group" member, I asked the staff for specific information about what's wrong with the rink. They replied with boilerplate text. So I filed a freedom of information request. We'll see if that brings some specifics.

The city is used to the idea that you don't tell things to the public. In the Request for Proposals (RFP) for this contract there's this clause: Confidentiality: The Vendor shall treat as confidential all information of any kind which comes to the attention of the Vendor in the course of carrying out the Services and shall not disseminate such information for any reason without the express written permission of the City or otherwise in accordance with MFIPPA or other applicable privacy law.

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