By Gerry Barker
February 13, 2017
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Important note: The sale or merger of Guelph Hydro is scheduled for Wednesday night February 15, commencing at 6. p.m. The fate of GMHI will also be discussed the same night. Sorry for the inconvenience. My advice still stands, please plan to attend the Wednesday meeting and make your voices heard. GB
On Wednesday, expect a different tactic employed regarding disposal of Gyelph Hydro.. A five-person committee, headed by CAO Derrick Thomson, is asking council to approve the sale of Guelph Hydro with the committee having the power to do so.
This time the method is different from 2008 when then Mayor Karen Farbridge was defeated in attempting to have council approve the merger with two other local distribution facilities in Hamilton and St. Catharines.
This is nothing but an end run to capture capital gain from the sale or merger, take your pick but someone is going to pay for it,
How can this committee, that has one member of council on it, Bob Bell, be given the power to dispose of the city’s most valuable, profit making asset?
How can the committee gain such power when the future of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. misadventure into a $96 million disaster, hangs over the city like a vulture setting up his evening meal.
Ask yourself, where does the city, the one without a Chief Financial Officer for more than two years, plan to use this potential cash bonanza? Reduce the debt? Pay-off the $65 million hydro loan now sitting on the city books as an impaired asset. That’s because the borrower, GMHI, chaired by former mayor Farbridge, has no money to even pay the interest of the Hydro loan.
Apparently, the Wednesday agenda will discuss extending the future of GMHI to be targeted until mid year.
Are the potential Hydro sale/merger proceeds going toward the police HQ renovations? Or a new downtown Library? Or the South End recreation centre? Those items total capital spending of $140 million.
Is this prudent management of city assets? We live in a city that has higher operating and capital spending budgets than Cambridge and Kitchener, some 50 per cent higher. The disappearance of senior managers since 2014 has made matters worse. Our taxes are among the highest out of 445 municipalities in the Province.
Even more interesting, the Thomson committee debated for five months. They asked for public input and the response was overwhelming against the sale/merger of Guelph Hydro.
The committee also gave citizens little time to appear before council to comment on the committee recommendation to allow it to sell or merge Guelph Hydro. Is this fair?
This is nothing but a gigantic sham to shut down public protest and grab the value of Guelph Hydro estimated to be $150 million.
* If you want someone else to control your electricity costs, don’t show up Wednesday night.
* If you believe what this Thomson committee was told by outside consultants about the declining value of Guelph Hydro and the future of turning your home into a storage site costing thousands of dollars, then don’t show up Wednesday night.
* If you believe that your water bills are going to be reduced if Guelph Hydro is sold, don’t show up Wednesday night.
* If you believe that the proceeds gained by selling off Guelph Hydro will lower your taxes, don’t show up Wednesday night
* If you have faith that council will table the committee recommendation, don’t show up Wednesday night.
It’s time to call a halt to the sloppy and inefficient management that has been denuded of talent. Instead, it lurches on without reducing the city’s gargantuan spending policies that always are directed at the wrong goals at the expense of the necessary goals.
This is the citizen’s opportunity to protest this recommendation that lacks the credibility of public power.
If council passes the recommendation, say goodbye to public trust, power and the city’s most valuable asset.
In my opinion, Councillors Karl Wettstein and June Hofland should not participate in discussions regarding Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc or the proposed sale/merger of Guelph Hydro. Their role of serving on the GMHI board of directors for four years and participating in the $96 million dollar losses, linked to Guelph Hydro, of that city-owned corporation, creates a conflict of interest.