Monthly Archives: February 2014

Former reporter speaks his mind and sometimes it’s better to think before speaking

Posted February 28, 2014

Writing in the Guelph Mercury, former reporter Scott Tracey speaks out of his mouth both sides at the same time.

First, he called GrassRoots Guelph an “upstart group” for daring to present a petition to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting an audit of the city’s finances and operations.

Then he tells us “I am fine with organized opposition to any politician or political group, but let’s not pretend this group is politically neutral.”

Thanks, Scott, for your permission to organize and oppose the administration. One that has had complete control of the public’s business and has conducted most of it behind closed doors for the past seven and one half years.

And Scott, in my opinion, you were complicit in the administration’s efforts to force its agenda on an unsuspecting public.

As the former beat reporter covering the city administration, you consistently supported the policies and political agenda of the Farbridge administration. But your keyboard fell silent when it came to any criticism of the Farbridge regime.

In fact, in my opinion, if you had done your job and covered the city business telling both sides of the story, there would probably be no need for a citizens group to take up the responsibility that you abdicated.

Your comment about a legally organized citizens group challenging the administration only emphasizes your unwillingness to investigate and report the whole story.  

Your statement that GrassRoots Guelph is not politically neutral is the first true statement you made in your freelance submission carried in the Mercury.  GRG never said it was politically neutral.  What it said that it was non-partisan. Heck, you would have been welcome to join if you wanted.

The final part of your piece makes a mockery of journalistic integrity.  In it you tut-tutted the city’s CAO for claiming the city’s financial position is “strong and getting stronger”, but providing no evidence or attribution.

Isn’t that how you practised your craft for these past seven years covering city hall?

Scott, GRG has worked hard with the guidance of professional financial analysts to parse the official financial statements produced by the city for some four years. The Ministry officials confirmed that the numbers in the petition are accurate.

Why the Minister decided not to proceed with the audit does not change the facts. GRG is still considering the offer by the Minister to have her officials facilitate such a meeting and the terms and conditions.

But have faith. GRG will continue to inform the citizens by presenting accurate facts about how their business is being conducted by the Farbridge administration.

In my opinion, they and you have a lot to answer for.





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We don’t always agree but this time the Mercury got it right

Posted February 27, 2014

The Guelph Mercury has been the paper of record in our community for many years. I have had complaints and differences of opinion with the editors.

This week, the paper’s editorial of the city’s response to the Ministerial letter declining to proceed with an audit, drew unusual over-the-top comments from the Chief Administration Officer and the Mayor.

But the Mercury editorial took a balanced response and quoted parts of Minister’s  letter, also received by GrassRoots Guelph members.

Thanks to the Mercury editors who kept their heads. They produced a commentary that was fair and accurately reflected the intent of Minister Linda Jeffery in her letter to all parties.

She never said nor inferred that the GRG petition was a “waste of time.”


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Why our $209,000 CAO, Ann Pappert, just doesn’t get it

Posted February 27, 2014

It was worthy of an academy award performance.

The spokesperson for the Farbridge administration, Chief Administration Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, lashed out at GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) yesterday for having the temerity to dispute the city’s own financial statements.

She said that GRG chose to ignore financial facts. Really? Ministry staff in a meeting with the GRG delegation, verified the contents of the petition’s numerical claims.

This is coming from a CAO who has no professional designation in finances?

Ms. Pappert claims the city is in a strong financial position and getting stronger. GRG disagrees and has the numbers to prove it. When you charge taxpayers excessive rates on property and user fees to pay for misguided and self-serving adventures, you have no alternative but to raise taxes.

For 2014, the city announced a property tax increase of 2.37 per cent. It failed to include the rise in those taxes caused by increased assessment. The real charge to ratepayers is 4.36 per cent, one of the highest rates of any municipality in Ontario.

Pappert parrots the administration line that GRG is wrong -headed about its claims of financial mismanagement of the city. Indeed, GRG exposed how the city financial people have inaccurately forecasted revenues and expenditures for three years, from 2010 to 2012.

But you won’t hear about that because it’s embarrassing and indicative of the way the administration runs our city. Recall the saying: What they don’t know, won’t hurt them?

The official city financials showed that more than $24 million exceeded official budgets over three years. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) did not dispute those figures. Yet the CAO charged GRG “use(d) blatant misinformation” to attack the reputation of the city administration.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

The Mayor was AWOL except for a brief comment on her blog.  So, frequently the Mayor trots out her CAO to represent the administration’s position.

A few years ago, transparency and openness of operations, was non-existent. It was a time that prompted a number of citizens to band together to question the closed-door decisions by the Farbridge administration.

The turning point was the $53 million spent on a waste collection and composting of organic material system, that was foisted on the citizens.

Without going into the details of this failed experiment, the 2010 Financial Information Report submitted to the province, schedule 51, stated the valuation of the gross waste management plant was $40,973,923 with a depreciation of $3,857,031. In 2011, the plant value rose to $69,308,440. Depreciation declined to $3,182,558.  In 2012, the schedule 51 report stated the plant value was $76,407,350 and depreciation was $4,146,577.

Do you think GRG made these figures up?

The three-year increase of plant evaluation was 86 per cent. In the same period the depreciation increase was only 7 per cent. In responsible accounting circles this could be described as “cooking the books.”

What difference does this make in the overall city finances? Well, it allows the city’s financial staff to inflate the asset side of the corporate ledger to balance the books as required by provincial law.

Was the CAO involved in this charade? If not, she should have been. Was the mayor signing off on this make-believe move to meet provincial regulations?

These are some of the questions that GRG asked the MMAH to investigate. Instead, it passed by handing it over to the same people who have perpetrated this financial maze, misrepresenting the city’s finances.

There are many reasons for citizens to be concerned about the management of their city. GRG will continue to reveal the excesses, misrepresentations and propaganda designed to fulfill a cock-eyed agenda.

In the next few weeks there will be more information forthcoming about the political interests shared between the Mayor and Guelph MPP, Liz Sandals. All this makes for very interesting provincial and civic elections this year.

As they say in journalistic circles: “the first casualty in war is the truth.”

Join today and make your voice heard to stop the bleeding of our treasure and halt rank mismanagement of our corporation.


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GrassRoots Guelph responds to Minister’s letter regarding the petition requesting an audit of the city’s finances

The following press release was sent out today to the media in response to statements by the Chief Administration Officer of Guelph. In disputing the facts, the CAO attacked the integrity of GRG members and accused the organization of ” blatant misinformation” to attack the city’s reputation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This administration has abused it power and misled the public in carrying out the people’s work. GRG is pledged to keep exposing the attempts to cover up mismanagement and dysfunctional operation of the people’s administration.
Press release to all media
GrassRoots Guelph, a non-partisan, non-profit citizens organization today defended its petition sent to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting an audit of the City of Guelph’s finances and operations.

“The provincial authorities stated in a November meeting with GRG representatives that the numbers contained in the four-page petition are accurate, ” said Gerry Barker, executive director of GRG. He went on to say that those numbers were generated from the city’s financial statements sent to the Ministry.

“The same day we met with Ministry officials, they went to city hall to discuss our issues with city officials,” Barker said. “To this day we have not received copies of the notes of the city meeting.”

“The Minister is saying that this is a local matter to be dealt with by City Council,” Barker went on. “These are the very people who generated the numbers we used in our petition!  What is even more mystifying is why does the province, through the Revised Statutes of Ontario, provide an avenue for municipal taxpayers to protest the administration of their municipality, then turn it around and tell them they have to deal with the very people who created the problems, perceived or real.”

Barker then pointed out that, in an apparent victory lap, the City’s Chief Administration Officer, issued a press release that said that “GrassRoots Guelph chose to ignore financial facts and used blatant misinformation to attack the organization’s reputation.”

Barker’s response to that is “This ridiculous statement is indicative of the callous disregard the City of Guelph’s administration has for the qualified opinions of its citizens.”

“This is entirely about facts, “Barker said. “We carefully examined the public statements put out by this administration and were appalled at the financial methods and statements the city was publishing. Our sources included the ongoing overview of an experienced financial analyst.”
GRG is not giving up. In fact, it is pressing forward to inform citizens of the administration’s mismanagement of public money and the public trust.
At this time, GRG is considering whether or not  to meet with city officials. In the meantime, we encourage all citizens to follow GRG presentations of relevant facts about the way their city is being run. Contact and join the hundreds of fellow citizens who believe there must be change at City Hall in October.

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How Mayor Farbridge snatched victory from the jaws of defeat using her power and your money

Posted February 26, 2014

Our environmentally obsessive Mayor, architect of a multimillion dollar failed waste management system, is now scheming to supply energy through a citywide district energy network. Translation: Burrowing under the city to supply heat and cooling to buildings in the downtown area. The source of energy requires deep drilling to extract the natural thermal energy in the earth. It’s known as geo-thermal engineering.

The city propaganda machine hailed the project as North America’s first “District Energy Network.” Not so fast, Kemosabe. Winnipeg has had underground district energy since the 1920’s. The University of Manitoba has had central steam heating since 1911. If you lived in Winnipeg, you’d understand the imperative.

What has triggered this latest massive plan to provide energy to parts of the city of Guelph?

Well, it goes back to when the Mayor tried to ram through a motion to sell Guelph Hydro to a consortium of electricity distributors, including Hamilton and St. Catharines. Even some of her most ardent supporters on council voted against the deal. People were outraged that the Mayor had manipulated this deal using Guelph Hydro executives and board members.

Soon after, the undaunted Mayor, with support of her council majority, called a $30 million loan owed by Guelph Hydro. So, indirectly she finally got her hands on some real money. It quickly disappeared into the city’s share of the $66 million provincial-federal infrastructure stimulus program. The city went ahead and spent another $7 million of the Hydro loan repayment on a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre, $2 million on bicycle lanes and a number of other non-infrastructure projects.

That was the end of the $30 million.

But it’s not the end of the story.

The Mayor then persuaded her majority in council to set up Guelph Municipal Holding, Inc (GMHI) to manage the assets owned by the city. The major asset was, you guessed it, Guelph Hydro. As chair of the new holding company board, she filled it up with four of her most loyal city councillors plus two independent members and the head of Guelph Hydro.

She achieved full control over the city’s greatest asset and supplier of power…without a shot being fired. It happened without public input despite the negative response of the failed earlier attempt to sell Guelph Hydro.

So now the Mayor needs money to launch her new downtown central heating plan.

Recently, accompanied by Lloyd Longfield, CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, Rob Kerr, General Manager of GMHI and an unidentified staff member, she travelled to Germany. The official explanation was to encourage German companies to establish in Guelph. That being the case, why wasn’t Peter Cartwright, general manager of economic development, not included in the war party?

It was revealed that the trip was sponsored by an organization called Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue (TUCD).  All expenses were covered by TUCD except the airfares of the mission and “incidentals.” The question is why? Why did the mayor and her delegation really go to Germany to meet and greet members of TUCD? The question begs asking: Is Guelph a member of this organization whose purpose is exactly, what?

Why was this trip necessary?

Stay with us, it gets better.

It seems that in 2012 the Provincial Minster of Energy issued a report that essentially said that small electricity distribution corporations should consolidate into larger, more efficient entities. The report claimed that distribution costs for small Hydro units increase costs to the consumer by 15 per cent. Despite serving 50,000 customers, Guelph Hydro is deemed small by the province.  

In July 2013, a city press release said that Guelph Hydro staff was examining “sharing services and resources or more formal mergers and acquisitions.” The Mayor stated “Consolidation was a distinct possibility,” followed this announcement.

Let’s follow the money.

Mayor strikes out when the people decline a consolidation of their Hydro utility with two other cities.

Mayor wins a victory by calling a $30 loan owed by Guelph Hydro.

Council spends all the money on the infrastructure stimulus plan and an assortment of pet councillor projects.

Mayor forms a holding company to control Guelph Hydro with an estimated book value of $130 million.

Mayor promotes the district underground heating and cooling plan for the downtown area.

Guess where the money for this undertaking is coming from?

And you know, the people were never consulted or voted for this project.

Thanks to GrassRoots Guelph research team for details of this report.  Join the crusade to bring common sense and informed management to the City of Guelph Contact for details.




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If a city ever needed a snitch system, it’s Guelph

Posted February 25, 2014

With some amusement, we witness Chief Administration Officer, Ann Pappert dismiss a suggestion by Coun. Cam Guthrie to establish a tip line to ferret out staff fraud, malingering, abuse of sick leave, and overtime.

Didn’t we receive a damning report last fall about the $5 million overtime bill in 2013 from the city’s internal auditor? It was twice what was paid in 2012 and was particularly critical of the Guelph Transit workers who ran up more than $1 million in overtime.

For you lovers of figures, 20 per cent of the 2013 overtime bill was caused by 15 per cent of all city employees.

The CAO said that she has set up her own blog and a system called “Open Door” that allows employees to anonymously submit concerns to management. What she failed to say was how well her system was working and what results have been obtained.

The Mayor sniffed that such a tip line was duplication and “beyond our (council’s) purview. This is a management responsibility.”

Well, Madame Mayor, how’s that working for you and we citizens? If it hadn’t been for the internal auditor last fall, management would have papered over that overtime debacle in a New York minute.

It’s the Farbridge way to worry about working the staff too hard. She was joined in that chorus by Coun. June Hoffland, who described the Guthrie proposal as a “make work” project for staff.

Coun. Maggie Laidlaw said the tip line proposal was “old fashioned” and had a “snitch” connotation to it and leads to low morale. And this comes from a councillor who has a reputation of bullying staff and was forced last year to apologize to staff members for her abusive behaviour?

Then, when the vote came, the result was a 6 to 5 in favour of asking staff to prepare information for consideration by the governance committee.  What is most interesting is that Coun. Ian Findlay, a devoted Farbridge soldier, voted with Councillors. Cam Guthrie, Bob Bell, Gloria Kovach, Andy Van Hellemond and Jim Furfaro.

Also noted that Councillors Leanne Piper and Lise Burcher did not attend the meeting.

Is the good ship Farbridge starting to spring leaks?


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Despite what the CAO claims, we are still stuck with a flawed railway underpass

Posted February 21, 2014

In that famous television debate between Brian Mulroney and John Turner, Mulroney told the new Prime Minister that he had a choice to deny previous appointments by former PM Pierre Trudeau.

Turner lost the election to Mulroney.

It seems that the same argument applies to the inadequate clearance of the Wyndham Street underpass.

It now appears the city did have choices.

Guelph’s Chief Administration Officer, Ann Pappert, writes in the local daily that the city was unable to redesign a two-year renovation of lower Wyndham Street. This included sufficient clearance for all vehicles to pass safely under the rebuilt CNR bridge.

Instead, large commercial vehicles are hitting the new bridge complete with crash bars apparently installed by the city under direction of CN Rail infrastructure engineers.

The stunning admission reveals that the city engineers knew for two years that the clearance for all Wyndham traffic under the overpass was inadequate.

In view of this revelation, don’t you think the city should have asked for a second opinion before proceeding? In fairness Chief, you may not have been CAO when these decisions were made.

So the CAO explains that they dug down as far as they could go and replaced the underground sewers, water mains and various other cables and pipes. It still was not deep enough.

Oh well, she goes on, the project resulted in a renewed roadway, bike lanes, sidewalks and improved lighting and a “modernized bridge that will serve us well for decades to come.”

Sorry chief, the underpass still doesn’t handle large commercial truck traffic. There have been regular collisions with the bridge despite billboard-sized signs warning the underpass will not accept large trucks.

Your explanation that the bridge/Wyndham project was  “expertly designed and executed,” still fails the smell test of your elaborate explanation of a job well done.

You have to wonder why the underpass on Norfolk Street allows large commercial vehicles to pass safely under it. It’s the same railroad line and the grades are very similar.

Your essay explaining all this segues into praising the job Guelph has done in rebuilding its infrastructure since 2006.

Also you congratulate the Mayor for being named vice-chair of the Association of Ontario Municipalities Large Urban Mayors Caucus. In two years, she should become the chair provided she is re-elected in October.

Chief, why are you promoting the Mayor’s political ambitions?

While this city has been over-taxing its citizens for three years 2010 to 2012 by $86,841,000, why would you tie yourself to an elected official in such a manner? Your job is to manage the staff, not be a cheerleader for Mayor Farbridge. These excessive tax figures come from the annual city report sent to the province that must be filed annually.

It is another example of callous disregard for the interests of the community in an explanation that falls flat explaining a job not properly done.

And why didn’t you explain what all this expert work cost?

To read more details of the $86.8 million overtaxing scandal sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, check out


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That giant ripping sound is your tax dollars being seized by an administration that can’t count

Posted February 20, 2014

February 19, 2014 will go down in our city’s history as an election epiphany. It reveals vital information for every taxpayer to carefully consider as to whom they should support in the October 27 election.

In this special report prepared by GrassRoots Guelph’s (GRG) financial analysts, Guelph’s property taxpayers have been overtaxed by $86,841,000 in a three year period, 2010 to 2012. The details of this analysis can be found in the attached GRG members’ Alert.

The same information has been forwarded to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) as an addendum to the original petition presented by GRG to the Minister last October.

This is yet another example of the good work by GrassRoots Guelph, an independent citizens organization. It is one that analyzes and interprets how your city has been mismanaged in the past seven years of the Farbridge administration.

GRG has become the real opposition to the administration as the mainstream media blithely ignores digging for the facts. Reason? They don’t have the resources to investigate and analyze. Further, they will not spend the money to hire those resources. The result is that reporters become dependent on information provided by the city administration. There is little critical examination or commentary thereby readers lose this last bastion of political checks and balances so necessary in a democratic society.

The answer for citizens is to follow GRG on its website, and the blog, Both these sites are dedicated to the truth and to inform all citizens regardless of their political beliefs.

This new report is based on official financial statements filed by the city administration in its obligatory annual Financial Information Report (FIR) to the province. It demonstrates the fiscal fallout of chaotic management of budget forecasting by senior city staff. It seriously reflects on the majority of elected members of council who failed to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens, and turned a blind eye.

But you be the judge.

GRG Alert #12 to its members

As you know, GrassRoots Guelph submitted a petition to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on October 1, 2013 requesting that the Ontario government conduct an in-depth audit of the City of Guelph’s finances and operations.

Subsequently three GRG representatives met with two MMAH representatives in Guelph on November 25, 2013 as they began their investigation into our request.  During this meeting, the MMAH representatives “confirmed the accuracy” of the numbers in our petition and we presented them with an additional six more items to add to it.
We have not heard back from MMAH since our meeting in November, even though we submitted more petition signatures to them in December.

Therefore, today, we submitted another two issues to the Ministry to supplement the original petition. This is part of our continued efforts to press the Ontario government to audit Guelph’s finances and operations and explain the many discrepancies and examples of mismanagement we have uncovered in the City’s financial statements.

The two new items are provided in full below.

These items are so critical that we sent them out in a press release this morning to all of the print, broadcast and Internet media outlets that cover Guelph. This is our second press release in two weeks. Last week, we issued a press release providing our analysis that the average 2014 property tax increase in Guelph will be 4.36%, not 2.37%.  Unfortunately, when we issue a press release, there is no guarantee that the media will use the material we give them.  However, we’re trying to get key information out to the general public using these outlets…and we’ll keep trying.

After all, Guelph’s residents deserve to be well-informed on these matters before they head to the polls in October!
Please share the following new petition items with your friends and family. If they want to join GRG so that they can get more information about what is happening at City Hall, please have them go to our website and complete our contact form (

Petition Addendum – February 19, 2014

Section 1: Finances –
addendum to petition paragraph H)

In 2010-2012, according to available figures, the City of Guelph underestimated revenues by $105,955,000.  Since it also exceeded budgeted expenditures by $19,114,000 during this time period, Guelph taxpayers were over-taxed by $86,841,000 for 2010-2012.

This $86.8 million in unnecessary taxes was not a case of wildly gyrating numbers making it difficult to forecast revenues accurately.  In fact, audited revenues were surprisingly stable, totaling $379,887,000 in 2012; $379,882,000 in 2011; and $368,338,000 in 2010.

Rather it is, in our opinion, the result of a severely flawed budget process.  In the budget process, the difference between expected revenues and budgeted expenditures is the basis for determining the annual amount of taxes that residents must pay.

The revenue surplus of $105,955,000 over 2010-2012 reveals that the City of Guelph’s administrators do not have the means to forecast inflows with reasonable accuracy, and therefore consistently calculate tax levies that completely fail to reflect the reality of the differences between revenues and expenditures.

Addendum to Petition
- paragraph I)

In 2010-2012, the Finance Department reported questionable numbers regarding waste management assets in Schedule 51 of the Financial Information Report.

In 2010, in the Waste Management Division section of the report, the value of gross plant (i.e. the total accumulated assets of this operation) was $40,973,921 and annual depreciation was $3,857,031. In 2011, gross plant value rose to $69,308,440 while depreciation actually declined to $3,182,558.  In 2012, gross plant rose again to $76,407,350 and depreciation was $4,146,577.

Thus, over this 3-year period, the city stated that gross plant value rose by 86% while depreciation rose by only 7%.  In our opinion, this is another example of accounting inconsistencies that if done intentionally, would be considered “cooking the books”.

Written by Paulette Padanyi, GRG Commuications

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Here are some questions that you should be asking every member of council and those running for office next October.

Posted February 16, 2014

It has been almost eight years that the administration, under the leadership of Mayor Karen Farbridge, has imposed major changes and subsequent far-reaching financial obligations on the citizens.

Like all partnerships involving the public trust, there is a day of reckoning coming. Already there is evidence of missteps with the most major being the administration’s inability to accurately forecast revenues and expenditures.

This has been born out by the presentation of, a group of citizens who presented a petition to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), requesting an audit of the city of Guelph’s finances and operations.

During the most recent three-year period, the city council approved spending more than $24 million in excess of its own budgets. This fact was outlined in the citizens’ petition that is still under investigation by the Ministry.

In 2012, the city stated in its obligatory Financial Information Report (FIR) sent to the MMAH that the gross plant value of the Dunlop Drive waste management facility was  $76,407,350. The 2010 FIR stated a gross plant value of $40,973,921. That’s an increase of 53.62 per cent in just three years. The increase of depreciation declared in the same period was only 7.1 per cent.

Question: How do you explain the huge increase in valuation of the facility but the small increase in depreciation?

Question: What is the real cost of operating this facility that is carrying this ever increasing valuation?

Question: In view of the fact that the Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF) is dependent on outside supply of feedstock, when, if ever, will this waste management system become self-supporting?

Question: Why did council spend $33 million on a compost plant that is three times the needs of the city?

Question: What is the annual operating cost, including debt servicing, plus capital spending at the end of 2013?

Question:  When will the city start collecting waste from all residences and businesses so it can rightfully claim it is tops in Ontario for diverting waste from the landfill?

Question: As a councillor, did you vote for the various resolutions that created this waste management system?

*            *            *            *

In 2007, the Farbridge-dominated council approved moving the Civic Museum from Dublin Street to the former derelict Loretto Convent on Catholic Hill. The project is still under construction and the latest cost is some $16 million. The museum is open for four hours a day and there is no transparent accounting of the operating costs.

Question: What are the terms of the agreement between the city and the Diocese of Hamilton, owners of the convent building?

Question: What are the year-to-date costs of renovating the building?

Question: What are the details of the original operating plan including visiting hours, estimated adult visitations, effect on tourism, restoration and safe keeping of artifacts, number of staff, and operating budget?

*            *            *            *

More than two years ago, the lower portion of Wyndham Street was closed for reconstruction. Part of that was a renovation of the CNR railway bridge that passed over the street. When the street reopened last fall, it was discovered that large commercial vehicles could not use the street because the vehicle collided with the under part of the renovated rail overpass. And there were several collisions.

Question:  Why was this major street, being rebuilt by the city, and fail to properly measure the clearance to allow all traffic to pass under the overpass safely?

Question: What is the city going to do about it?

*            *            *            *

In 2013, the city staff recommended spending $170,000 to renovate the farmer’s market building, the former horse barn used years ago. After receiving council approval, the staff reported that the renovation was to cost $500,000.

Question: Did council approve this increase of $330,000?

Question: Was the job tendered and what was the result of the process?

Question: Was there favouritism in the selection of the contractor who eventually did the work?

Question: Which staff member approved this project that was originally presented to council?

*            *            *            *

Following up, the same department of city staff recently reported to council that the “living wall” of plants in city hall needed $10,000 in repairs and estimated future monthly maintenance costs of $1,000. The plant wall is part of the greening of city hall that has a green roof as well.  Due to a number of problems including drainage, the roof project had to be renovated at a cost of $250,000.

Question:  While improving the environment is commendable, at what point does it no longer be cost effective or beneficial?

Question: Is it cost effective to pay $1,000 a month to maintain this environmental feature?

*            *            *            *

By a vote of 12 to 0, council approved spending $11.7 million by deferring taxes on two downtown condominium projects. Now the argument can be made that the resolution did not exactly spend the money. It just meant that the taxpayers, who receive no tax holidays, would not have the benefit just given to two developers. Both these developers said that if they did not receive the ten-year deferment of property taxes they were not prepared to build the projects. This recent vote was part of a two year-old resolution that set aside $33 million to encourage condominium development downtown. All the money has been allocated.

Question: What was council thinking? Did it fail to see the fiscal problems this could bring to taxpayers over the next ten years?

Question:  Did council ignore the political fall out of this decision?

Question: Is this council so susceptible to threats that do not serve the public interest or trust?

These are just some of the vital questions that this council and administration need to answer.  As the election campaign unfolds, there will be more questions that voters will be asking.

If you are concerned about the way our city is being managed, then join the only citizen’s organization that is questioning the administration. Join today at GRG, it’s by the people for the people.


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The way the Mayor calculates costs of the Hanlon Business Park, two plus two makes eight

Posted February 13, 2014

When Coun. Bob Bell stated recently that the Hanlon Business Park has cost taxpayers $40 million; Mayor Farbridge rushed in with figures denying Bell’s assertion.

In her denial, the mayor said the city was not “losing money on the project.” She cited the city is on track for meeting its adjusted cash-flow projections.

Madame Mayor in English please!

Then she went on to say the city’s financial exposure is “about $20 million” spent so far on purchasing and servicing the land in the 675-acre project. Of that acreage, 380 acres can be used for a business park.

She failed to mention that the city spent $14 million as its share to complete the Hanlon/Laird interchange that opened last year and was part of the development of the park.

Okay, following the money in Farbridgeland can be a daunting task. Coun. Bell has an advantage because his sits on council and as a businessman, he can follow the money where no ordinary Guelph resident fears to tread.

The mayor said the phase one will reach the break-even by 2017. So far of the 123-acre phase one site, only 41 acres have been sold. The mayor says $11.7 million is going to the city as its share of the private/public partnership with Belmont Equity Partners.

The role of this newly revealed partnership is unclear.  The bottom line is the citizens of Guelph financed this enterprise. Did Belmont Equity Partners put up the money in return for a piece of the pie? Who is Belmont Equity Partners?

Now we learn that “almost all of” phase two land has been sold to an unnamed private firm.

The Mayor, we hope is not financially illiterate. But using words such as “almost” and “about” and expressions such as “adjusted cash-flow projections” does not inspire confidence in her explanation. Her explanation that the city’s investment in the Hanlon Business Park is on track and viable, remains on shaky ground.

If anything, in one interview the Mayor has muddied the waters even more. Then to go on and state that phase one will create 3,700 jobs is pure unadulterated drivel.

In one breath she says that phase one has “almost” sold out and that will create thousands of jobs. She goes on to say phase two will create 2,600 jobs and 1,700 jobs in phase three. How does she estimate that? Is she clairvoyant?

Back to the phase one prediction. When will those 3,700 jobs come on stream? And where will the workers and their families live? Will it be in the hi-rise condominiums downtown that the city citizens are helping to build?

If that many jobs are created in phase one, it will mean a population increase of about 12,950.  The Farbridge administration has failed dismally to approve sufficient affordable mixed-use housing in its seven years in office. Its new housing starts fall below the standard set by the provincial Places to Grow policies in the past three years.

Readers will recall the rallying cry of the Farbridge gang in 2006 when they decried “urban sprawl”. They succeeded as only 152 new single-family detached homes were built in Guelph in 2012.

More evidence that we are now in re-election mode when the mayor makes such vague statements that are devoid of details.

Before forgetting, remember the delay in constructing the Hanlon Business Park caused by a group of environmental terrorists? They chased the contractor off the site, damaged his equipment and even threatened him at his home.

And it was all in the name of protecting the habitat of the Jefferson salamander. It was a contrived myth that ended up costing Guelph more than $1 million. In the end, there was no evidence of the existence of Jefferson salamanders.

And what did the Farbridge administration do?  They greeted the occupiers at city hall, ordered the police not to arrest them for trespassing on public lands. Then the city sued for $5 million. The defendants, collectively, did not have the cash for a bus fare to downtown.

Do you think the mayor is believable now?





Filed under Between the Lines