Leaders of a union representing Minneapolis park keepers are pressing park commissioners to block a proposal that would turn over snow-making and grooming duties to outside workers.
The issue comes before the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Wednesday night when commissioners are scheduled to make a final decision on three agreements that would allow a planned Adventure Welcome Center at Theodore Wirth Park to go ahead.
City Employees' Local 363 objects to the proposal because it outsources work that's part of the jurisdiction of union workers, according to Kevin Moody, the union's business manager. If the proposal passes — outsourcing snow-making and grooming for cross-country skiing at Wirth and grooming at several other parks — the largest union representing park workers will file a grievance, Moody said.
The plan was negotiated between Park Board managers and the Loppet Foundation, which operates an all-season array of distance athletic events, including the City of Lakes Loppet.
Moody estimated it would subtract 6,400 hours of work annually, or the equivalent of about three full-time jobs, from union workers. But because the jobs are seasonal, about seven or eight workers would be affected, he said. The Park Board has said that no park keepers would be laid off as a result but their duties would shift.
"Our people have done a good job and we don't understand the reason behind it," Moody said.
Park and Loppet officials have argued that the proposed arrangement will achieve a higher level of grooming quality, attracting more skiers and revenue.
The Loppet has committed to raising $5 million for the building and associated winter sports and mountain biking improvements, while the Park Board is paying for golf course modifications and for parking lot and utility upgrades. The proposal would have the Loppet operate the building for 20 to 40 years, collecting and keeping winter sports revenue, and paying for course upkeep and building expenses.
The foundation would pay 18 percent of net revenue to the Park Board, plus an escalating lump sum starting at $5,600 annually. It would also pay an escalating amount starting at $20,000 annually toward long-term building needs. The preliminary business plan estimated net income of $15,707 initially. Some critics have called the arrangement a sweetheart deal that allows a nonprofit to use public facilities.