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City tries, fails to privatize ski hills

This goes a long way to explaining why the city still owns golf courses: sometimes it’s hard to get rid of things, even when you really want to. Today’s example comes from the Globe and Mail, from whom we learn that the city has been trying to contract out the running of two public ski hills—and failing to find even a single interested party.

Brenda Patterson, the general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, said a time crunch could explain why only three private companies looked at the city’s proposal and none bid.

The quick turnaround – council approved the budget in April and the request for proposals went out in May in order to ink a deal by August – meant city staff didn’t have time to ask private companies what might sway them to bid on ski hills that currently bleed money.

The PFR also asked potential operators to upgrade the facilities, pay an annual fee to the city and accommodate skiers and snowboarders under the city’s “welcome policy,” among other stipulations.

Councillors are already stepping up to say that the ski hills will be open come hell or high snowbanks, so the city will probably be on the hook for at least another season of running these things. But it sure doesn’t help the image of a city that can’t organize anything more complicated than a bake sale.

We’re not sure what looks worse: the fire-sale rush to get city expenses off the books, or the fact that private operators were so distinctly non-eager to step up.  Perhaps this could be a valuable lesson to mayoral candidates counting on big bonanzas from privatization. Maybe, just maybe, we won’t make billions of dollars by selling useful public property?

• With no private operators stepping up, Toronto ski hills may close this winter [Globe and Mail]

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