Posted June 28, 2014
Some years ago, there was a bid to consolidate Guelph Hydro with Hamilton and St. Catharines hydro systems. The sale was rejected by council in one of the rare votes in which most of the mayor’s cohorts voted against it.
The rejection came as a result of public reaction to the proposal in which the Mayor refused to reveal details of the business plan but urged acceptance.
That was then and now Mayor Farbridge is at it again.
As chairperson of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI), the mayor is using a study produced by the province in April 2012, to consider consolidating electrical distribution utilities. Guelph Hydro, with a conservative book value of $150 million, is one of several small electric distribution utilities the province sees as being as being a candidate for consolidation.
The provincial study group issued is no directive, no requirement, and no assurance that it will happen.
Despite this fact, our mayor has persuaded her board, populated by her supporters, to endorse consolidation of Guelph Hydro with other unnamed electric utilities.
But there is more. The GMHI board has set up a task force composed of board members and Guelph Hydro, plus staffers from each organization to consider merger and acquisitions scenarios.
This is nothing but a second attempt by the Farbridge administration to get its hands on more cash to fund their agenda of projects that few voters in Guelph supported in 2006 or 2010.
Along with the announcement the GMHI board will add two new companies to its stable.
One is a new real estate development corporation to direct select city assets and operations such as downtown land parcels and parking.
The other is creating Envida Corporation to develop centralized thermal heating and cooling utilities downtown and in the Hanlon Business Park.
The reason for all this is to set up a management structure that is independent and creates a mechanism for the transfer of city assets.
Why is GMHI necessary? This creates a separate entity that will control the sale of Guelph Hydro then use the money to further the vision thing that Mayor Farbridge has espoused for the last eight years.
She has set up a second tier organization that answers only to her and not to the elected council.
It is an egregious attempt to covertly control a huge asset without ever consulting the public or elected officials. And she has done it on the specious suggestion by a provincial study that is only that: A work in progress, with no authority to carry out the removal of Guelph Hydro from the assets of the city.
It is hallmark Farbridge working under cover to get what she wants, the $150 million. It a perfect example of mushroom politics. Keep the citizens in the dark. It is founded on ego, arrogance, secrecy and, more lately, on a sense of entitlement.
She and her council supporters have already spent millions of your money on projects that don’t work, are not necessary and have little relevance to the day-to-day operations of the city.
Think about the 35 per cent increase in your property taxes since 2007. Think about your water bills climbing 77 per cent even though water usage has dropped dramatically. Think about the Urbacon new City Hall lawsuit that could cost the city an estimated $30 million when all the costs are established.
Are you sure you want another four years of this?