Collingwood Public Utilities is a mess and needs fixing. They can spin it as much as they like up at 43 Stewart Road. They can dispute the findings of True North Consultants operational review until the cows come home. Everyone knows now that this little fiefdom is in for some major changes in the way it does business and serves the people of Collingwood. As I said in my last post, I sat through Mr. DeVries presentation to council Monday evening. Unlike Cam, I was NOT elected to town council, so I can say it out loud, “A lot of what was presented was above my head (and pay grade) and was very complicated”. I was pissed off at Cams very public admission that the report before council, even after he read it twice, was too complicated for him to understand. I was pissed off because this statement plays right into the hands of those who are happy with the status quo. I can hear it now, “This is all very complicated, even members of council admitted that. You all just go back to sleep and leave it to us who know best to figure out”.
Although the problems in this public utility go back many years, I believe they were compounded back in 2012 in the way the last council sold off half its share to PowerStream. The town should have maintained 51% control over the utility. I believe it would not have affected the selling price by a huge amount, but it would have vastly increased the value of the town’s share that it still owns. Think about it, imagine if the town decided to sell its remaining 50% share right now, who would it be able to sell it to? The only available buyer would be PowerStream, at a vastly discounted price, because it is the only entity that would be willing to buy it. My personal opinion is that the town should get completely out of the electrical distribution portion of the utility and take complete control over the water and sewer portion and sever its relations with PowerStream; however that shakes itself out from a financial point of view. The way this is structured now, we have PowerStream, a private corporation, as a 50% owner, which has a stated objective of earning stable regulated returns (profit). While the Town, which owns the other 50%, has a non-profit break-even mandate. How can that partnership ever work? This underlines how little thought was put into this sale when it was structured at the time of the sale. Much like everything else those same players put their greasy hands upon.
I never agreed with this sale from the very first time I heard about it. The money has already been pissed away like a drunken sailors pay cheque on shore leave. Mainly on disjointed recreation tents, which are costing a fortune to run and will look like crap in a few years. Now the sale is done and we can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, so it’s time to fix this bloated inefficient utility once and for all. This should be done in a way that serves the citizens of Collingwood in a permanent cost efficient manner. I think the new council is up to that task, even with its one obstructive disagreeable member. It will take all of us to get involved and keep paying attention. This is one of the most important files on the council’s agenda right now and will set the tone for the rest of this administrations mandate. I believe the “out of character” behaviour of Brian Saunderson Monday evening was a result of his complete frustration with the whole situation, (I’m not quoting just guessing). Contact any of the councillors that you voted for a couple of months ago and let them know what you want to see happen to your portion of this public utility, especially the ones that are likely to be sitting on the fence. You know who they are, I don’t need to keep telling you.
The report will be on the councils agenda again in 30 days and, as much as my chattering colleagues disagree with me, I believe that gives ALL members of council a chance to thoroughly read and understand the document, to be present and to weigh in on its findings. If they had accepted the report as is on Monday evening it would have probably slipped past this loud mouthed bloggers attention and probably a few of you out there as well. I will let you know exactly which council meeting this is being presented at so you can all make sure you are paying attention.
Let’s get this thing fixed once and for all.