Monthly Archives: April 2013

CITY VIEW – How your council wastes your money

Posted April 11,2013

It seems that the City of London council is considering hiring an integrity commissioner. This follows the case of the Mayor who has been indicted for misuse of campaign funds.

One of the Dalton McGuinty legacies was allowing municipalities to hire a private integrity commissioner instead of using the free services of the Provincial Ombudsman, Andre Marin. Guelph was one of the first in the Province to hire a private lawyer of Caledon to act as integrity commissioner.

The lawyer was paid a retainer of $25,000 and, in his one and only investigation, charged $10,400. He was called in to investigate an alleged leak to the press of a plan by five councullors to seek a report that staff withheld, through the Freedom of Information Act.

The Commissioner never interviewed the five councillors and his subsequent report was about as mealy-mouthed as one could ascertain. It was much ado about nothing. But taxpayers paid for it.

* * * *

The revelation that the Chief Administration Officer (CAO) was paid a moving bonus of $20,000 to move from Waterloo to Guelph is another example of wasting the taxpayer’s money. Apparently when Ms. Ann Pappert was promoted from Director of Parks and Recreation to CAO, her contract included payment of travel and moving expenses.

But the lady did not move after being on the job for more than a year. The administration gave her a deadline to move to the city within a specified time or lose the $20,000. Suddenly her excuses about not being able to sell her Waterloo home evaporated and she purchased a home in Guelph.

This is yet another example of misappropriation of public funds.

Ms. Pappert was already an employee when she was promoted. Did the administration believe that she could live wherever she chose in her previous position, but had to live in Guelph as CAO? The question is: Who else in the senior ranks has special moving bonuses or the like?

* * * *
Last year, the city paid an American outfit to make a video of Guelph with former NFL all star quarterback Terry Bradshaw as the host. It featured highlights of the city including a spot by Mayor Karen Farbridge. The production cost $25,000. The sales gimmick was the promise that the video would be played on TV station across North America during the off hours.

Well, it fell on CAO Ann Pappert to report the results of this promotional video. Her report followed an article in Maclean’s magazine that labeled the Guelph video as one of the stupidest uses of taxpayer’s money by a municipality. Ouch!

Ms. Pappert glowed about the number of views the video attracted but failed to mention what, if any, resulted in creating business and tourist leads and contacts. When this was questioned, it was met with stony silence. No doubt the Mayor and her economic development chief can play their copies of the video in the comfort of their own homes. Memories are made of this.

* * * *

Some may argue that spending $70,000 is chicken feed in a $400 million corporation. The danger lies in the ability of city leadership to do anything they want, whenever they want and spend taxpayer’s money without recourse.

A recent example of how money is manipulated is the $2.6 million allocated in 2013 to build a second public access and weigh scale at the transfer station. Now on the surface, that is a good idea. But it turns out that only large loads of waste material can use the access.

But when you examine the source of the funding, it reports that $998,000 is from the federal gas tax rebate slotted for transportation needs; another $430,000 comes from unnamed subsidies with the balance of some $1.1 million paid by the taxpayers. When you step back and think about it, all that money is sourced from taxpayers.

To suggest that it only cost taxpayers $1.1 million is ludicrous. That gas tax rebate was never intended to be used for weigh scales. It comes from the federal treasury that collects the tax at the gas pump. So taxpayers have already paid the gas tax and now they are paying again.

This is nothing but pure manipulation of your money. It all stems from the Majority of Council doing a terrible job of contracting the organic waste facility ($34 million) and automated waste collection system ($15 million).

Predictably, those chickens are coming home to roost.

As Desi said to Lucy: “Lucy, you gotta lot of ‘splainin to do!”

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THE AMERICAS VIEW Remembering the faces of murdered small children – This time it’s different

Posted April 9, 2013

The pundits are predicting that three important aspects of gun control will not pass the U.S. Congress. Congressional members of both parties are ignoring the wishes of 90 per cent the U.S. People who want thorough background checks on purchasers of guns, a ban of owning military-style assault weapons and large capacity magazines.

Just these three steps would have saved the lives of those 20 children and six staff members at Newtown, Connecticut who died at the hands of a crazed assassin using a bushmaster assault weapon with 30-round magazines.

You only have to look at the smiley pictures of those innocents who were murdered and listen to the grieving parents to realize the constructed apathy and lack of political courage on the part of the United States Congress.

Lawmakers charged with the responsibility to bring sanity to the Second Amendment – the right to bear arms – are more interested in re-election than the will of the people. They are held in the thrall of the National Rifle Association (NRA) that is currently urging arming teachers and school staff with guns to protect the students.

Is this a solution to murdering innocents? Are schools to become armed fortresses to repel crazed shooters functioning under the protection of the second amendment?

The Newtown shooter’s mother, whom he murdered the day of the assault, bought weapons for him, took him to shooting ranges to fire assorted automatic weapon There was more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and more guns were later found kept in a cabinet in his bedroom in his home.

So, how does Canada with its strict gun controls measure up with 1.8 premeditated gun murders per 100,000 persons? The U.S comparative figure is 5.5 persons per 100,000. Most of the guns that committed those murders in Canada were smuggled from the U.S. Buying a gun in the U.S. is simple. They are sold by gun dealers, gun shows or from the back of a car.

The same situation occurs in Mexico where U.S. made weapons are smuggled into the country to be used by the drug cartels. At one point the Mexican gun smuggling was done with the complicity of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Aren’t proposed gun control changes zealously fought by U.S. gun manufacturers by effective lobbying in the U. S. Congress and even pervasively drilling down to support elected state representatives?

It’s not about the sacred Second Amendment to the Constitution that gives all citizens the right to bear arms. When it was passed more than 200 years ago, weaponry was limited to muskets. Today, a citizen may own military-style assault rifles, 30-round clips for semi automatic weapons and as much ammunition and numbers of guns they can afford.

Further, in many states, any nut bar or criminal using phony ID, can buy guns.

It’s all about money. The business of manufacturing weapons is huge in the U.S and profitable. Elected lawmakers across the country are wooed and dined by the gun lobbyists and their front, the National Rifle Association.

Just a reminder, remember the faces of those 20 six-year-olds who were gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut. The insult of this terrible act to all law-abiding citizens should not be forgotten.

The elected lawmakers need to act and bury their political ambitions to pass the necessary legislation to reduce the never-ending destruction of more than 30,000 people a year dying from gunshots in America.

After all, 90 per cent of Americans want it to happen.

P.S. Keep your guns out of Canada

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AMERICAS VIEW -How the greenies corrupt the message

Posted April 9, 2013

The talented and provocative MSNBC host Alex Wagner, of the noon hour talk event, made the fatal mistake of giving her platform to the environmental lobby who denigrate the Canadian Oil Sands development and proposed XL pipe line.

Alex, let’s make a deal. Canadians will stop yapping about American gun controls and the illegal smuggling of guns into our country, if the U.S talking heads will stop yapping about how awful the Oil Sands’ development is ruining the atmosphere.

It’s a crock.

As a journalist, you have a responsibility to report and comment in a balanced fashion. When you bring in the head of the Sierra Club to address his group’s protest, you should also have invited the premiers of Alberta and or Saskatchewan. Both these provinces are the second largest suppliers of crude to America … after Saudi Arabia.

Yeah, I know, time constraints and availability of guests is a bind in live television. It is also easier to lard up the guest list with people sharing the same point of view. Also those folks receive an appearance fee. This epitomizes MSNBC’s slogan of “Leaning Forward”?

Here are some facts for your producer to consider:

There is already several pipelines transporting Alberta crude to the Gulf refineries.

More than 500,000 barrels of crude a day, some from the Oil Sands, are exported to the U.S.

A like amount of natural gas is also shipped south.

U.S. oil giant Conoco Phillips uses imported Oil Sands crude in its Texas refinery.

The U.S. is still reliant on Middle East and South American crude to supply 40 per cent of its needs.

The OPEC crude comes at a much higher price that Canadian crude.

Most of that imported oil comes from countries that are not friendly to the U.S.

The sustainability of Gulf of Mexico oilrigs to supply feedstock to Texas area refineries is rapidly declining.

Due to the sheer size of our countries, Canada and the U.S. are dependent on vehicles with internal combustion engines, well into the foreseeable future, to drive our economies. Pardon the pun.

There is a gradual increase in vehicle and power plant fuel efficiency.

No amount of renewable sources of power will supplant petroleum-based fuels.

Why does the environmental movement keep referring to “Climate Change” instead of “Global Warming”? Because science has determined the plant has cooled by .7 degrees in the past decade.

The real protest in the state of Nebraska is not about the TransCanada XL pipeline but its attempt to shut down the Oil Sands and its crude production.

The charge that the Oil Sands is the major North American producer of carbon dioxide, is an environmental myth. Besides, basic science states that Co2 is necessary for plant and animal life to create oxygen.

One volcanic eruption, such as the recent Icelandic explosion blanketing Europe for five days, wiped out any human attempt to curtail Co2 emissions by five years.

There are 200 active volcanoes in the world. At any given moment they can increase the amount of Co2 in such massive quantities that it destroys man’s attempts to protect the ozone layer by forcing people to adopt lifestyle measures that will protect the planet.

Unfortunately, we cannot control nature. To those who label the Oil Sands product as the dirtiest in the world, should look out the window in Iceland or the Philippines to witness the world drenched with real toxic materials. The volcano Pinatubo, in the Philippines, spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in one year than the entire human race emitted in all its years on earth.

This argument has nothing to do with the XL Pipeline, it’s all about a coalition of environmentalists trying to shut down the Canadian Oil Sands using misrepresentation of the facts as well as scare tactics.

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NEWS FLASH! Guelphspeaks grows – more voices for the people

Posted April 9, 2013

The growth of guelphspeaks has prompted enlarging the scope of its coverage. For almost two years, the blog has grown in terms of viewers far beyond what was originally forecasted. In short, guelphspeaks has become the prime source of information and pointed commentary exposing the soft underbelly of our current civic administration.

Your editor has been covering Guelph politics since 2005 and the content, in a column titled “Between the Lines”, was carried in the Guelph Mercury for six years when guelphspeaks was created in the summer of 2011.

Since that time 276 columns or posts have been published in the blog. More than 807 comments, not including the spam that is eliminated, have been approved. GS gets a ton of views every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 day a year. To most folks this doesn’t mean much. But in a limited market, covering the city of Guelph, it is a remarkable performance compared, say, to similar numbers of blogs published in the city.

The two newspapers have far more resources covering the news than guelphspeaks. They also have access to the Toronto Star stable of columnists and the financial resources of TorStar Corporation.

Guelphspeaks is operated and edited by one person with the help of like-minded individuals who share the view that the current administration is creating excessive long-term debt that will stifle future growth and services.

The late Tip O’Neill, the canny Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, often said, “All politics is local.” That’s on which guelphspeaks has focused since its inception.

Starting today, guelphspeaks is broadening its scope of coverage. We live in a world that is rapidly changing. The impact of the Internet in disseminating information has changed our world forever, in lightning speed. The relevance of print media is diminishing as more people depend on the Internet for information that is accessible every hour of the day.

These changes are affecting every citizen of Guelph. It is the new mandate of guelphspeaks to inform and comment on events that are changing the way we live and prosper. Information has no borders or deadlines now. Welcome to the world of the Internet.

The evolution in demographics is astounding. As our population ages, younger people are eschewing print media to get their news and information and, communicate instantly with friends and colleagues.
How can Guelph’s newspapers, put together the night before and hitting the street or doorstep the next day, compete with the Internet?

First, they have enormous overhead in staff; equipment, real estate and they must use paper to communicate. Our 20 year-old granddaughters can access emails, advertising and important information with a few keystrokes.

This is the direction that guelphspeaks is going. The content is original and provocative. You won’t read it in your local newspaper.

So, here are the new features that will start to appear starting today on guelphspeaks.ca:

CITY VIEW – focuses on events and politics in the City of Guelph and surrounding area

QUEENS PARK VIEW– is commentary on the provincial government and its effect on Guelph

AMERICA VIEW – news and commentary from events around the Continent with the focus on Ottawa and its influence of Guelph

GLOBAL VIEW – commentary on those events around the world that directly and indirectly affect our lives

THE FUNNIES – A regular feature of satirical and humourous comment to entertain and provoke response that life is really not all bad. Enjoy!

Each post will carry the appropriate label to inform viewers of its primary content.

Now, my wife thinks I am biting off more than I can chew. Perhaps. But this is a project that is just getting started. I believe there are talented people out there looking for a voice to express their ideas and opinions. Welcome to guelphspeaks!

To accomplish the task will require resources other than the editor and his copy-editing spouse. There is ample evidence out in Blog Land that talent us bursting to get a voice. The blog has always invited viewers to participate and the door is always open. Letters to the Editor are welcome as posts.

If interested, contact gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

We are a volunteer organization composed of folks who love their city, their province and their country.

Guelphspeaks is willing to link up with other blogs to exchange posts and commentary. The usual rules apply: No profanity, off-colour material, personal attacks, promotional material or libelous statements. Community and non-profit events are welcome. The editor reserves the right to edit and approve all copy offered to be posted.

Thanks for your support,

And don’t be afraid to participate. It’s your voice. Gerry Barker, editor

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CITY VIEW – The saga of the Sleeman time clock

Modified April 11, 2013

By John Carroll

Funny you should mention the Sleeman Centre score clock in one of your recent guelphspeaks posts. There is quite a story behind it.

During the time we were getting railroaded (literally) by the city, I read a letter to the editor from someone who was upset that the City would not provide access to water and hydro on City owned land for the Guelph Junction Express. Yet the City purchased a new score clock for the Guelph Storm and questioned how this was different.

Chief Administration Officer, Ann Pappert, responded to the letter by stating that the Sleeman Centre was a public building and new score clock could be used by the public (for a fee or course). Let’s hold that thought for a minute.

I decided to investigate the score clock purchase further and this is what I found:

City Parks and recreation manager, Colleen Clack, stated that the score clock at the Sleeman Centre (which was not even 10 years old) needed to be replaced because it was nearing the end of its life, (clock has a life?) I thought this strange as these clocks are pretty rugged. Most of the equipment at Centennial, Exhibition and Victoria Road has been there since I played minor hockey 40 years ago.

I found the actual company (based in Guelph) that installed the original score clock for the new Sleeman Centre (known as the GSEC at the time). The owner said there was absolutely nothing wrong with the original score clock as he was the one who maintained it. He actually had the discarded clock at his location as he was the one who removed it to make way for the new score clock which was purchased from out of town. He said with proper maintenance these clocks could easily last 20-25 years (or beyond).

I asked what he charged the city to maintain the clock and he said nothing really. He would drop in from time to time to have a coffee with the building manager and, if asked, would tweak or adjust something if needed, at no charge.
The price of the flashy new clock was $750,000 with the cost split 3 ways under the 2009 stimulus program between all 3 levels of government.

So the City spent $250,000 for a new clock that we know didn’t need to be replaced. We need to ask ourselves, why? Some cited that our clock was boring and didn’t measure up to other OHL arenas so it was obviously purchased to help the Guelph Storm (a private for-profit business). The new clock also provides the Storm with a new stream of revenue as they receive 60% of the advertising revenue from the clock.

To add insult to injury, if you suspected a new clock such as this required a service contract, you would be correct to the tune of $9,700 per year. But if you thought that the cost of this annual service contract would come off the top of the generated advertising revenue, you would be wrong. The City pays 100% of this service contract.

So let’s recap:
The city claimed that they could not clear the snow on a sidewalk that runs from Woolwich Street down to the path that runs along the tracks before our train excursions because this would be bonusing a private business and a violation of the Municipal Act (by city definition). The sidewalk in question is, of course, owned by the city where citizens and people from out of town needed to get from the parking garage down to board our train.
Yet:
• The City spent $250,000 of public money to buy the Guelph Storm (a private for-profit business) a new score clock to keep up appearances with other OHL arenas (a clear violation of the Municipal Act).
• The Guelph Storm (a private for-profit business) is also provided a new revenue stream of 60% of the advertising revenue generated by the new clock (another violation of the Municipal Act).
• The City pays 100% of the annual $9,700 maintenance contract.

I do not want to leave the impression that the Guelph Storm Hockey club is to be blamed for any of this. It was the result of a decision made by the city administration.

It is interesting to note that that the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium recently underwent $9 million in refurbishments and upgrades to better accommodate the Kitchener Rangers but the Rangers paid 100% of these costs. If this happened in Guelph, guess who would be footing the bill?

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Are advocates of global warming creating a big lie?

Posted April 4, 2013

You would think that Professor Ian Plimer, an Australian geologist, earth sciences and mining geology, may know more than a little about so-called “Global Warming” and its successor “Climate Change.”

Basically he says that the environmental movement is irrational. He points to the vast bulk of the scientific community, including most major scientific academies is prejudiced by the prospect of receiving research funding.

He calls the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as being related to environmental activism, politics and opportunism.

It appears that the greening of our society has morphed into huge business with tentacles influencing the food we eat, the resources we use and the air we breathe.

Now the professor is seen as the uber skeptic of climate change. He challenges the reasons for weather changes that have been blamed on global warming, caused by excessive human-generated carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Plimer says the recent eruption of the Iceland volcano in just four days, totally erased every human effort to reduce carbon in the past five years.

Plimer writes: “Of course you know this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress, is that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and synthesize into oxygen for us humans and animal life.

“I know it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of: driving a Prius hybrid, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid’s “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick into your toilet tank, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing your 50 cents light bulbs with ones costing $10.”

He did not mention the dandelion effect in Ontario that banned chemistry on our lawns and gardens. It was another cave-in by former premier Dalton McGuinty. It’s right up there with the cancelling of the natural gas power generation plants in Oakville and Mississauga to win an election.

Plimer’s argument is the earth is going through a normal cycle that occurs over 800 years. In fact the planet has cooled by .7 degrees in the past century.

He warned that emissions trading schemes are a new tax imposed on everyone. It will not stop 200 active volcanoes from erupting around the world.

What if he right?

This scenario feeds directly into the proposed XL pipeline sending oil sands crude in Alberta to southern Texas to be refined. U.S. President Barack Obama stopped the project in January 2012. Protests by highly financed Nebraska environmentalists forced TransCanada Pipelines to redesign the route to accommodate concerns of the political action group.

The U.S. state department says it has no objection to the pipeline’s new route and sees no environmental concerns. The buck now stops with Obama. It’s really a no brainer.

The president’s policy is to make America self-sufficient producing petroleum products and reducing its reliance on foreign oil. Why would he not consider that more than 50 years of supply lies in the backyard of his best friend, major trading partner and closest ally? Why should Canada and America import costly foreign oil from the states not friendly when the resources lie in North America?

There is no financial cost. The refining plants in Texas and elsewhere are pleading for the oil because the supply of crude from the Gulf is dwindling. The environmental movement is determined to shut down the oil sands on the grounds it is a major producer of greenhouse gas, aka carbon dioxide.

This has become an embarrassing political mess in which the environmental movement in the U.S. is attempting to interfere with a sovereign state by forcing the closing of the oil sands.

Obama does not have to face re-election. There is no reason why he cannot approve this important development that will benefit both Americans and Canadians.

Make no mistake the environmental movement is powerful and has changed the way we live although often based on false science and premise.

Right here in Guelph, our city is governed by a majority of environmentalists on council. They are determined to change the city to their model regardless of whether the citizens go along or not.

The majority of this council has voted to spend more than $120 million to foster its beliefs that the city must change and become environmentally sound. But at what cost? Failure to replace the downtown library, provide adequate parking downtown, neglect recreation areas and needed community centres, are some examples of how priorities were shanghaied. It was to satisfy the minority among us who are radical about greening the city.

The time has arrived to push back and restore the city offering opportunity to all citizens not just the chosen few.

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Looking behind the staff payment numbers

Posted April 2, 2013

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

The recent release by the Province of the Public Sector Salary disclosures list includes all municipal employees earning more than $100,000. It shows that Guelph employed 177 individuals to operate and manage the city. It works out to be 12 per cent of the total number of employees.

That number is dwarfed by the 787 employees at the University of Guelph earning more than $100,000. City councillor Lise Burcher made the list earning $103,686 as an Associate Professor. City councillors Leanne Piper and Maggie Laidlaw are also employees at the University of Guelph but did not make the list of those earning more than 100,000.

There is a marked difference in the salaries paid when comparing apples to apples, the 110 Guelph civic staff earning more than $100,000 to that of Cambridge that has 87.

The direct comparison is in the 2010 populations of the two cities as reported by Statistics Canada. Guelph’s population is 128,000, slightly less than Cambridge with 132,900 residents.

For example, Guelph’s Fire chief made $170,102 in 2012 with added benefits of $8,162. His counterpart in Cambridge earned $154,806 plus $9,722 in benefits. Of course there are factors confined to the individual municipality. Guelph’s fire chief is listed as: General Manager, Emergency Services/Fire chief. That would suggest he has additional responsibilities. But isn’t that what a fire department is responsible for, handling all kinds of emergencies?

Guelph’s deputy Fire Chief earned $154,598 in 2012 with $8,071 in benefits. The Cambridge deputy fire chief earned $127,249 with $3,633 in benefits.

There are many other examples of comparable jobs that show that Cambridge’s civic staffs’ costs are markedly lower than Guelph’s.

The whole question of benefits fails to reveal the nature of these costs. By statute, the figures are provided by the various municipalities, school boards and post secondary institutions. The Provincial government states clearly that they publish only the information they receive. The details of benefits are not revealed.

Are the benefits taxable? Do they include travel, accommodation, entertainment, membership to clubs and associations, city-provided credit cards charges, parking, or expensive orange juice?

The taxpayers should know not only how much its staff costs but details of the benefits. The city publishes a list of some 24 benefits that are available to staff.

Al Horsman, who was hired in June 2012 did not make the list. Only those on staff for 12 months are listed. Mr. Horsman is executive director/chief financial officer for the city. Details of his employment have not been revealed. We won’t be informed until early 2014 when the province releases the 2013 list.

Is the $20,000 moving inducement bonus, recently paid to Chief Administration Officer Ann Pappert to move to Guelph a taxable benefit? There is provision under Canada Revenue Agency rules to deduct certain moving expenses when you change jobs. In Ms. Pappert’s case she lived in Waterloo but has been employed by the city prior to her promotion, so writing off the cost of moving may not be an option. It would be a taxable benefit.

What other special arrangements have been made to other employees? Does senior staff have written contracts that include benefits and bonuses? The taxpayers will never know because this administration does want you to know.

The public trust erodes when the city administration does not reveal real costs of staff and major building projects.

What is the turnover rate of city staff? How many were terminated and at what cost? How many resigned? Why was it necessary to hire 23 additional staff for 2013? Were these to replace those who had left or were they new positions?

How is the taxpayer able to judge whether their city is being run efficiently with carefully controlled costs?

To achieve this, requires a more revealing budget process that starts first with the estimated revenues for the coming year and then creates an expenses budget that matches revenue. It’s not rocket science. The days of the senior staff wandering down the hall to the council chamber with a wish list must end. Last year’s budget debacle when the staff told council it needed an 8.5 per cent tax increase was an example of hocus pocus financial management.

Despite cutting the increase to slightly under three per cent, Executive director of Environmental Services, engineering and planning, managed to gain approval for $2.6 million for a second weight scale at the organic waste management complex.

How did that happen? Why wasn’t that included in the original planning and costing of the organics plant?

Council approved that expense by using $998,000 of the federal gas tax rebate intended to be used for transportation needs.

That, my friends, is yet another example of how your money is being manipulated and wasted. That weigh scale approval has jacked up the price of the new waste management system to more than $52 million.

And in 2012, the $37 million plant produced 3,414 tonnes of compost. If ever there was a screaming need for an independent audit of that whole waste management operation, it is now.

Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

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