Category Archives: Between the Lines

Gerry Barker Between the Lines

Who profited and what happened to Guelph Hydro’s cash surplus of $18.5 million special dividend ?

By Gerry Barker

July 15, 2019

Opinion

It happened December 13, 2017, when ten members of city council voted to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities Inc. It was the greatest heist of public property in the history of our city.

There may be other corruptive details made in the almost 200 year history of the city but I’m betting there isn’t.

In all the years I have experienced growth in our cities and towns, corruption is the handmaiden to making money for persons of influence.

Was there evidence of corruption in the merger between Guelph Hydro and Alectra?

Well here is a hint.

Did the co-chairs of the council-appointed Strategic Options Committee (SOC) charged with disposing of Guelph Hydro, profit from their influence and positions?

Former Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson and Guelph Hydro chair, Jane Armstrong, were unelected officers of the city and Guelph Hydro. They received regular salary and benefit payments to perform their respective responsibilities.

In my opinion, both these individuals, with the acquiescence of city council, crossed the line in terms of their job and fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of the City of Guelph.

Mr. Thomson, according to city financial information, was paid $335,000 in 2018. This information is sourced from the 2018 Sunshine List published in March 2019.

Mayor Cam Guthrie announced May 18, 2019, that Mr. Thomson was paid a $67,000 performance bonus more than his 2017 salary. The Mayor stated it was in recognition of his leadership regarding the Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra Utilities.

In that same month, Mr. Thomson left the city with no explanation.

Former Guelph Hydro chair, Jane Armstrong, was appointed by council to the Board of Directors of Alectra Board Utilities to represent the city. Her appointment was for five years at a salary of $25,000 plus travel and board meeting expenses.

These two public executives were directly involved in all the negotiations with Electra Utilities. Those SOC meetings were conducted in closed-session, far from the public’s view or understanding.

The fact that the Ontario Energy Board approved the merger without allowing interveners to testify only solidified this deal, and was a deliberate policy to deny public participation.

Taking it a step further, both were appointed by city council. Today, one would wonder that the reasons for disposing of Guelph Hydro, one of the most successful and profitable municipally-owned electric power distribution systems in Ontario. The exercise was not only demanded good faith and in the public interest but also explain the details and council’s rationale of the merger.

It was, in my opinion, the embalming of accountability and transparency.

Instead, council believed the siren song of selling out to a large private corporation that spun theories of futuristic benefits to the community. My favourite iste green fable was installing solar panels on every roof and a power storage system to hold surplus generated power to feed back into the grid.

Caveats, the homeowner must pay to install this system that is currently more than $15,000; and what happens if the sun doesn’t show up? What about the agreements with the Ontario Energy Generation Board that must be approved and signed?

In my opinion, it seems like a lot of work and money for citizens to obtain free or cheap electricity. Don’t we pay enough today in taxes and fees?

Wither $18.5 million od our money?

A final thought. As part of the merger deal, the city was to receive an $18.5 million special dividend from Guelph Hydro.

Dead silence. The unofficial information is that the city used the money to pay off the costs of the abortive District Energy nodes, installed in the Sleeman Centre and Hanlon Business Park and operated by the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI). Confirm or deny.

Also the dividends promised by Alectra will be deposited in a GMHI account. The question is, why?

Perhaps that accounting fitm KPMG’s consolidated audit of GMHI got it right when it posted a shareholder liability of $60 million. In this case the shareholder is the city council.

This may explain that the truth of the colossal financial failure of GMHI numbers may never be known or told to the citizens who paid for it.

 

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Is Guelph now the graveyard of public accountability and transparency?

By Gerry Barker

July 8, 2019

Opinion based on facts

Last Thursday, the final stage of the lawsuit brought by Mark Amorosi claiming I had defamed him was heard in the Wellington County Courthouse presided over by Superior Court Justice, Cynthia Peterson.

This was a hearing in which the court heard submissions from the two lawyers representing Barker and Amorosi. There was no testimony by the principals.

First up was Ian MacKinnon, lawyer for Amorosi. Over a three-hour submission, MacKinnon submitted evidence that Barker had defamed his client. He based his submission on sworn statements including a five-hour cross-examination recording consisting of more than 674 questions, of Barker.

During this submission, there were sworn statements attributed to Amorrosi, who was not present, that formed the basis of the lawsuit.

Amorosi, who launched his lawsuit November 16, 2016, attended the proceedings. He has claimed $400,000 in damages and $100,000 in exculpatory damages. He was reported in the Mercury Tribune that the city was paying his legal expenses.

It was stated by Mr. MacKinnon that Mr. Amorosi left the city two months following the lawsuit filing. In fact, CAO Derrick Thomson fired his friend Amorosi for cause February 9, 2017.

The termination was due to the leaking of some 50,000 private staff emails sent to the lawyer representing Building Inspector Bruce Poole. Mr. Poole was previously fired by the former CAO, Ann Pappert, and was suing the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. As this was part of Amorosi’s management portfolio, he was dismissed.

The subsequent settlement between the city and Mr. Poole was sealed and never revealed.

The facts of the handling of this case bungled by the Information Technology Department of which Amorosi was in charge, was another humiliating mismanagement by the administration, specifically Mr. Amorosi.

If not council, who signed off on those salary increases?

Moving on, Mr. MacKinnon told the court that Amorosi, in his sworn affidavit supporting his claim, that council did not approve staff salaries. All increases were in the annual budget.

The question is, if council did not approve that $98,202 salary increases given to CAO Pappert, Deputy Chief Administration Officers (DCAO) Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson, then who did?

If what Amorosi is stating in a sworn document, why was the closed-session of council ever needed?

During Barker’s lengthy cross-examination by Mr. Mackinnon in Mississauga last February, he was asked if he was aware that council did not approve staff. Barker replied that, it was the fiduciary responsibility of council to review and approve salary increases.

Mr. MacKinnon said that provincial authority stated that senior members of the public staff did not have to reveal salary data, including performance reviews.

He added that under the municipal CAO bylaw, only the Chief Administration Officer reviews and approves staff remuneration, including the senior staff.

That appears to be an attempt to curry favour with members of council who in the background are supporting payment of Amorosi’s legal expenses and supporting his lawsuit against Barker. To defend himself, Barker must pay his legal expenses from his personal resources.

It’s now ironic that former CAO Derrick Thomson abruptly left the city for unknown reasons. The 2018 Sunshine List showed Thomson’s salary was $335,000. That was an increase over his 2017 salary of $67,000. On March 18, 2019, Mayor Cam Guthrie announced the Thomson increase was in recognition of his role in the merger between Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities.

Historical evidence shows that former CAO Ms. Pappert was paid $153,412 for seven months when she was no longer employed. That tops Derrick Thomson’s $67,000 bonus paid for work done in 2017 and announced in March 2019.

Attempting to Destroy Barker’s credibility

Throughout his three-hour submission, Mr. MacKinnon accused Barker of making no attempt to request information from Amorosi who was in charge of city finances. He said Barker’s columns’ contents were false and deliberately written to discredit his client. He accused Barker of malice based on a series of posts that revealed details of the senior manager’s salary increases over 12 months.

These posts in 2016 said the increases were covered up for almost four months when the 2015 salaries were published at the end of March 2016.

What Mr. MacKinnon did not explain during the four moths of non-exposure of the increases, two of the three senior managers receiving the 2015 increases, Pappert and Thomson, had resigned.

It begs the question, why during the first six months of 2016 was Amorosi not selected to be CAO, even on an interim basis?

The fourth member of the senior management, Albert Horsman left the city in August 2015. Did he know that the senior managers were going to receive large increases for 2015? Allegedly, they were approved December 10, 2015 in closed-session conducted by city council.

In January 2016, Barker attempted to obtain the minutes of the December 10, 2015 closed-session council meeting. Four months later he was notified that his request was denied with no explanation.

More unanswered questions: When did CAO Ann Pappert decide to resign? In August 2016 the city HR manager told Coun. Cathy Downer that part of Ms. Pappert’s 2015 package included a $27,000 performance bonus plus another $10,000 in unused vacation and sick leave benefits, and sundry expenses.

Was this not an employee preparing to leave? She resigned two weeks after the 2015 Sunshine List was published and left May 26, 2016.

Witnessing Mr. MacKinnon’s performance, with statements that were hurtful, personal and a distortion of Barker’s motives, plus his methods of collecting facts, undermined Mr. MacKinnon’s arguments.

During Barker’s cross-examination, he was asked to reveal his contacts. Barker refused.

The defence of free speech

Barker’s counsel, Jordan Goldblatt, spoke chiefly about the laws governing free speech. He quoted case histories concerning other Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP). He outlined the rights of a citizen to criticize municipal administrations. Justice Peterson interacted with Barker’s counsel submission.

The case histories and the application of the Ontario legislation governing the rights of public participation focused on Guelph resident Barker’s right to comment. The two underlying burden of proof elements of the SLAPP legislation are what tangible damage was done to the plaintiff and was the subject matter in the public interest?

A decision on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit by Justice Peterson is not expected until September.

 

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How the Mercury Tribune rations online access to its website content

By Gerry Barker

July 2, 2019

Opinion

How low can the Tribune stoop to deny full access to its online news?

In all the years of working in the news business, I have never witnessed a newspaper reject access of its online content that has already been published.

Is it possible they are building a list of future subscribers?

Here is what the organization that owns the weekly newspaper demands before you can access content online. This is reproduced from the Mercury Tribune online website under the heading “Local News.”

Unless you aren’t registered to receive the complete story online, the following is posted on the Mercury Tribune’s website:

HEADING -Guelph could phase out vacant property tax discount by 2021Currently, vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands see 30% discount on property taxes

News Jun 26, 2019 Guelph Mercury

In a report to council, city staff is proposing to phase out the 30-per-cent property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial properties by 2021. – Dreamtime

Owners of vacant commercial and vacant properties may soon have to start paying the same tax rates as others in the city.

According to a report to be presented to councillors at their July 2 meeting of committee of the whole, city staff are recommending that the property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands be phased out over the next two years. (Balance of  the article is blanked out)

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Torstar is the corporation that owns the Toronto Star and Metroland Publishing that owns the Mercury Tribune. Now, you may ask, why is there an arbitrary limit to access the full article online, as published free every Thursday?

Am I the only reader who has reached his article limit? Perhaps the Tribune management should explain why the restriction online access is only to those who register.

This is a form of public information censorship that only one major advertiser would request.

The only advertiser who resen any criticism of its operations by gielphspeaks.ca is the City of Guelph administration.

The Tribune refuses to label the city administration’s weekly ads labeled “City News” when, in fact, it is advertising and not labeled as such. The kicker is that these “City News” ads are paid with public funds.

Now some of the “City News” content, as published weekly in the Tribun includes legal notices that are required to be published. It remains advertising and not news. Missing is the city logo. Wonder why?

But that does not excuse the city spending thousands of public funds to pretend the content is legitimate news. Perhaps the following Tribune statement urging readers to register to get their news online explains it:

“Please register to support the local, relevant news you need from a source you trust.”

Two words stick out from this statement, ‘support’ and ‘trust.’

Believe me, I know from personal experience that both those words can mean the opposite.

I can only comment about the Tribune statement using the expression, ‘support local, relevant news you need.’ It’s not only an untrue premise but a deceptive way to disguise the Tribune’s real intent to support the administration’s point of view.

This comes down to trust.

How can the thousands of citizens who receive the free ad-heavy Mercury Tribune each week trust the content? More important why is the city paying to print only one side of the story produced by the city’s communications department?

I know what it has cost me to defend my right to speak freely as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights.

It comes down to public participation in government affairs without the threat of litigation to prevent it.

This concerns every citizen to be able to access information and comment on it wuthout the threat of costly retaliation.

Opinions matter.

One final question to ask yourself: Would you have voted to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities in December 2017?

Well, ten elected members of council did and that sealed the deal.

That was the most lurid misuse of the public trust that this city has endured in the past 13 years.

Trust is not just a five-letter word.

 

 

 

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Is the Province shutting down the city’s development fee piggy bank used to finance capital projects?

By Gerry Barker

June 29, 2019

Opinion

The story in Guelph Today was an expose’ of the weakness of our Mayor protesting the provincial legislature’s Bill 108. That’s the one that proposes reducing the amount of development fees a municipality can charge developers.

The whining over this from the Mayor and his council has been going on for some time. Tara Baker, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer, said the impending bill could cost the city $150 million over the next ten years. That averages $15 million per year.

Have the developer’s fees morphed into a piggy bank to finance certain capital projects? You can bet that Guelph is not the only municipality that has discovered this silent source of revenue.

Bill 108 deals with changes in the Development Charges Act. The city’s GM of Finance suggests that two key capital projects include, the estimated $53 million proposed downtown main branch library and the $63 million South End Recreation complex, might be in jeopardy.

Nothing new here, we have been waiting 19 years for a new library

For several years, the city has been increasing development fees by using proceeds to fund capital projects. This includes sweetheart deals that suspend payment of those fees for up to ten years.

It is next to impossible for citizens to find the details of these deals intended to encourage residential development downtown.

More important, why doesn’t the city come clean about transferring funds from the Brownfield remediation reserves to cover the ten-year development holiday not paying those development fees or suspending property taxes? Take your pick.

Municipal development fees or impost fees, are intended to connect new development with vital city services such as water and sewer hook-ups, power, increased emergency staff and equipment, parks, hospital, transit, and infrastructure.

This party started in 2007

Former mayor, Karen Far bridge, campaigned in 2006 vowing to “put Guelph back on track.” Sad to say that promise has gone off the rails as personal issues to convert the city into a paragon of environmental rectitude and a world class leader in coping with climate change.

The administration was determined to reduce the use of fossil fuels and spent millions trying to force cars to use major streets by shrinking lanes to allow bike lanes.

Today there are more vehicles using Guelph streets causing daily congestion.

The majority of her council is still pushing much of that agenda. The 12-year cost to citizens has been more than $1500 million due to poorly planned projects to satisfy the former mayor’s desire to create a new Guelph, one that was to be world class.

Was this a competition?

Compared to what? Let’s start with the money spent on waste management: The organic waste processing facility costing $34 million and built with a capacity of processing 60,000 tonnes of wet waste a year. That decision was made when Guelph processed only 10,000 tonnes a year. The plant was built by Maple Reinders (MR) then was staffed by a subsidiary company of MR that also sold the compost created. So the city turned over the entire project to the original developer, MR.

Financed by the taxpayers since 2011, not one ounce of composted material is available to citizens.

Conclusion? Guelph is in the organic waste processing business but cannot access the finished compost.

The $23 million mistake building the new city hall

Here’s another example of wasting money. The new city hall project was contracted to cost $42 million, it lost a major lawsuit by the defrocked general contractor, Urbacon Biuldings Group and ended up costing$65 million.

But wait! The Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc chaired by the former mayor, according to the KPMG consolidated audit cost $66 million in shareholder equity.

That’s more than $123 million wasted by the previous eight-year term of the former mayor.

City enters the real estate business

Those are the biggies. While all that was going on, in 2012 city council was planning to create a green city on 245 acres in the former Reformatory lands, property it did not own. Known as the Guelph Innovative Development, (GID) it is now being offered in a modified auction to all qualified parties. The result of the sale will be announced at the end of July.

Where is the city going to find the money to purchase the land if it wins the auction? Take more from the reserves to take ownership and then spend millions to develop it?

Then we have the Baker Street redevelopment project estimated to cost $350 million in a Public, Private Project (3P) to create a retail, library and condominium centre on the site of the Baker Street parking lot.

Mayor Guthrie announced the project during the October election campaign. We know how that turned out. Shovels in the ground are scheduled to start in 2024. The big question needing an answer, is what is the liability to the citizens?

But it took the administration headed by Mayor Cam Guthrie to giveaway Guelph Hydro with an adjusted book value of $16o million to Alectra Utilities for a 4.86 per cent of 60 per cent of the utilities’ profit. Was that a great deal or not?

The mysterious departure of CAO Thomson

It gets better. Both co-chairs of the council appointed Strategic Options Committee to dispose Guelph Hydro, Former CAO Derrick Thomson and the un-elected chair of Guelph Hydro, Jane Armstrong, personally benefited from the merger.

Thomson received a $67,000 performance bonus for his role in the merger while Ms. Armstrong was appointed by council to be its representative on the Alectra Utilities board of directors being paid $25,000 a year for five years plus travel expenses.

Mr. Thomson left the city in March just after the provincial Sunshine List showed that in 2018 he was paid $335,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,000.

The mayor announced the Thomson bonus March 18, yet not one media outlet reported the bonus or details of why it was awarded in 2018 or the reason that he abruptly ended his employment.

Why our property taxes and user fees are juiced every year

These are some of the reasons why our property taxes, annual increase have exceeded three per cent for more than 13 years. The only exception was in 2014, the civic election year.

Now I know readers of guelphspeaks.ca have read parts of this posting before.

It is my mystifying response wondering why that 90,000 voters were eligible in last October’s civic election but only 30,000 bothered to vote.

There are two reasons for apathy when it comes to vote in civic elections. The first is satisfaction with the previous council’s performance. This reason must be based on accurate information, personal impact of council decisions, trust and loyalty.

The second reason is about coverage and details of council’s decisions that affect the 90,000 residents. Regretfully the media is dependent on city department handouts such as press releases, paid advertising of events, policies and legal matters in the local print weekly.

Rarely do reporters question statements in press releases. They should never be an extension of the public administrations. The media in Guelph has a serious credibility problem in failing to cover the news as journalists and get reaction, from stakeholders affected by the council decisions.

The staff should not be immune to critical thinking. There is the flow of producing what the city wants and that dismisses the media’s obligation to the reader and viewer. Their job is to report the full story and not just what the city releases to them.

That friends, is why two-thirds of the eligible voters did not show up. The media only publishes one side of the story. Even on the social media, individuals dominate the message with an axe to grind and political bias.

Do not expect anything to change.

A major story that has broken is the council has decided to review itself with a hint of public involvement. The exercise is to consider reducing the size of council; change the ward boundaries; decide to only elect full-time councillprs; to complete the study in the first quarter next year.

This exercise will cost an estimated $150,000, details of how and when the money will be spent and on whom?

Check guelphspeaks for more details including both sides of the story.

 

 

 

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Why the indelible stain of council secrecy still muzzles our right to public participation concerning public interests

via Why the indelible stain of council secrecy still muzzles our right to public participation concerning public interests

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June 23, 2019 · 9:36 pm

Why the indelible stain of council secrecy still muzzles our right to public participation concerning public interests

By Gerry Barker

June 24, 2019

Opinion based on facts

Here are some of the tools of secrecy and controlling the message as practised by the Guelph Council since 2007:

* Conducting its business in closed-sessions.

* Retaining London-based Amberlea Gravel as special investigators of closed- sessions since 2008 and are on annual retainer.

* Establishing a system of discussing the public business as the Committee of the Whole (COW) eliminating the various committees of council.

* On the pretext of efficiency, using the councillor’s Code of Conduct to prevent any leaks of closed-session meetings or face discipline by the Integrity Commissioner who reports to council and is on retainer.

* Controlling the message by buying advertising space in the Guelph Mercury Tribune weekly newspaper passing it off as “City News” and not labeling it as advertising.

* The city communication staff prepares the content of these ads.

* The impact of this is that the Tribune editorial material rarely is critical of the city administration and rewrites press releases handed out by city staff.

* This results in muzzling any matter that council decides requires a closed-session to discuss responding to public participation with a potential negative outcome.

* The closing of the Guelph Mercury in January 2016 was the end of responsible print coverage of the public business.

* The fallout of denying public participation results in voter manipulation, that in October 2018 civic election resulted in the lowest voter turnout in many years. All of the incumbents who ran were re-elected.

* This was caused by voter suppression by giving Guelph Hydro away to Alectra utilities without the stakeholders being given no specific information about the terms and specific conditions of the deal. And that included most members of council and the sycophantic media.

The denial of online voting by city council also contributed to a lower turnout.

Guelph has been in the hands of successive administrations that used all the tools mentioned above, to obscure the truth and resulting in financial damages.

Why did the CAO drop out?

Let’s talk about recent examples of the fog of obscurity that is employed daily by the senior city staff and city council.

Last March, the Chief Administrative officer, Derrick Thomson, “parted ways” with the city by mutual agreement. The city did not state the circumstances of its CAO leaving.

The 2018 provincial Sunshine List of all public employees earning more than $100,000 a year was published. It revealed that Mr. Thomson received $335,000.

That was some $67,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,000 more than he earned in 2017. This time, Mayor Guthrie told city council it was a bonus for Mr. Thomson’s role as co -chair of the Strategic Options Committee that was charged with disposing of Guelph Hydro.

Citizens and members of council still don’t know how that worked out.

There is one other detail. In September 2018, Mr. Thomson received a one-year extension to his existing contract that would end in April 2020.

We are not aware of why he suddenly left on a Friday afternoon in March or the circumstances of his $67,000 bonus or the reason for his departure.

There was no succession plan in place as the three remaining Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, (DCAO) were named to handle the duties of the departed CAO. That process is estimated to continue until August when a new CAO will be either named or hired.

The fog of secrecy continues unabated

Again, secrecy is used to cover –up why Mr. Thomson left without a successor in place and received a whopping great bonus for his role in dumping Guelph Hydro.

It is mindful of the games played in 2016. Mr. Thomson resigned in January. CAO Ann Pappert announced her resignation in mid-April agreeing to stay on until a successor was named. She left May 26, 2016.

Behold! Mr. Thomson agreed to a three-year contract as CAO and rejoined the staff in June 2016. Case closed or so we thought.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

In March 2017, the Sunshine List revealed that in 2016, Ms. Pappert received a 12-month salary of $263,000 but only worked five months.

There was no explanation from the Guthrie administration as to why she received a full year’s salary, adjusted for inflation. The only hint came in August 2016 when

Coun. Cathy Downer asked the city HR department for a breakdown of Ms. Pappert’s 2015 salary and benefits payment.

The report stated that Ms. Pappert received a retroactive performance bonus of $27,0000 part of her 2015 salary of $253,000. Again, there is no explanation supporting the bonus.

When compared to the $67,000 in 2018 performance bonus paid to Mr. Thomson, her’s is penny ante.

The spin is in and it’s with our money

That friends, is why and how successive city administrations continue to flaunt your rights by going to ground through closed-sessions over which we have no recourse. There were 84 such closed-session of coumcil in 2015 and 2016.

I know because I requested the minutes of the December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council and received an answer four months later denying my request.

Now I know why.

In 11 days, my legal counsel will present my statement of defence. We will request for a dismissal of the lawsuit accusing me of defamation in 2016. The action was brought in November 2016 by a former DCAO whose legal expenses are being paid by the city.

Thursday morning, April 4, at 10 a.m. in the Wellington County Court House, the motion to dismiss will be heard by a Superior Court Justice.

Based on the current law, the outcome will depend entirely on the facts presented to the judge.

I have already paid a severe personal price for revealing the truth. I am hoping that this hearing will force real accountability and transparency of all operations of our city’s business. This would include a complete public overhaul of the council’s procedural bylaws.

I feel that I underestimated the power of successive administrations to stifle and, cover-up using our money to stop criticism and challenge to public operations.

That is the essence of voter suppression, using secrecy while managing our public business without recourse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is the Police HQ renovation completion delay another Urbacon debacle?

By Gerry Barker

June 17, 2019

Opinion

Mercy me. The similarities between the two most major construction of city buildings, since the Urbacon debacle that ended with the city being found responsible for firing the general contractor.

In 2014, an election year, it didn’t stop city council from approving the $34.1 million renovation of the 40.7 year-old headquarters. When first built in 1960, the city’s population was 38,000. In 1989, the building was retrofitted and a new wing added.

In 2014, the need was apparent, as the city population is now more than 131,000.

Is it déjà vu, all over again?

The new city hall and provincial court project in the old city hall took five years to complete and a cost overrun of $23 million. Now we have the case of the Police headquarters renovation that was approved in August 2014 and has yet to be completed 4.7 years later. The final cost has yet to be determined as the construction was impacted by excessive bedrock formations for new buildings on the site. Also winter weather conditions stalled construction.

This brings us to a new staff proposal to increase the city debt by $33.1 million. In 2017, according to the city, the debt was $110 million. At the end of 2018, the debt was reported as $96 million.

That’s progress right?

Here are the caveats about increasing the city debt

Council, at its June 24 meeting must approve the new debt terms and conditions. However, the staff will present the final numbers and associated cost to council July 8, 2019 according to the news report.

Is that a typo? The staff report follows council approval? It’s time to jack up the car and change the oil.

The new debt is guaranteed by the City of Guelph and it has a 20-year term when fully repaid in 2039, according to the staff report, the end cost of this new loan is $47.8 million.

The lender is not identified nor is the interest rate or any adjustments over the term of the loan.

If now approved the city debt will increase from $96 million in 2018 to $129 million this year. Is it possible that we ordinary citizens could handle the cost of a 29 per cent increase in our debt over 20 years?

FYI, starting next year, the city will be paying $862,000 per year costing 29 per cent more for its 2019 assumed debt.

So, where is the new money being spent?

Of the $33.1 million, $15.1 million is to be spent on the Police HQ renovation and the Wilson Street Parkade, both under construction; some $1.3 million will be spent replacing transit fare boxes; $1.6 million for fuel tank replacement at the city’s operations facility.

The amount to be spent on the two major projects was not spelled out.

It should be noted that the city approved a $16 million debenture for the Police HQ renovation that started in April 2016. The Police Services Board contributed some $3 million toward the renovation. That brought the outstanding balance to $14.1 million to meet the original approved cost of $34.1 million.

This does not include change orders or other unexpected costs that can increase the original council approval last August 2014.

The Wilson Street Parkade financing is murky. Last year, Mayor Guthrie announced the estimated $350 million Baker Street project would include a new downtown library, that is a key part of the plan. Barely mention, the $22 million Wilson Street Parkade was included in the original Baker Street project estimates.

Indeed, many a promise is embedded before an election.

Putting it all together, the report does not specify how and where the balance of the $33.1 million debt funds will be spent. So far, there is some $14.1 million still not allocated.

The other missing piece of promises made is the fate of the $63 million South End Recreation Centre. The city has already spent $3.5 million on preliminary plans from general revenues.

Incidently, whatever happened to that $18.5 million so-called dividend to be received from Guelph Hydrp following the merger with Alectra Utilities?

In my opinion, these developments are paying for a horribly mismanaged past that has milked the citizen’s ability to pay their obligations to the administration.

Under the present administration, don’t expect its collective ambition and disdain for professionalism that in the past four years has turned Guelph into an island of managemnt mediocrity in terms of not serving the people’s interests and blithely ignoring the fallout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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