Tag Archives: City of Waterloo

We take you now to another Galaxie … where transparency reigns

Posted August 10, 2012

I was given the opportunity to travel to another community where the attitudes are refreshing in how citizens interface with city council to work together. The city is Waterloo, where Council has formed a Citizens’ Budget Task Force to create financial transparency of the city’s finances and management.

It’s textbook on how political democracy should work with a free flow of information to all citizens.

The odious comparison about the way our city is being run is straight out of the theatre of the absurd.

Let’s start with the basic recommendations. You don’t have to have an accountant’s degree to understand where the Waterloo citizens’ committee is headed.

1.  Propose an annual report, easy to understand, with a 10-year trend table of balance sheet, income statement and total reserves. accompanied by a detailed management discussion and analysis.

We interrupt this programs to ask: “When did this ever happen in Guelph?”

2.  An annual operating performance analysis matching actual to yearly budget performance.

Jeepers, what a novel suggestion. Is anyone listening in City Hall?

3.  Establish an annual capital expenditure tracking report with original             budget, revised budget and actual expenses itemized by project.

For starters, let’s talk about the real cost of the Civic Museum and the           compost plant.

4.  Publish all collective bargaining agreements going forward.

Good grief Charlie Brown, they want to know all about us!

5.  Abandon the use of the Municipal Price Index (MPI) for setting the rates of           the annual property taxes. That authority rests with council.

Well, that’s not how it works in Guelph.

6.  Direct staff to investigate a more broad-based method of setting tax rates.            Take into account citizen affordability such as changes in personal             household incomes.

With most of Guelph’s senior staff living out of town, it may be tough getting             the handle on that proposal.

7.  Consider during the budget development process, both the previous year’s           budget and the actual performance.

Gawd! I hope they are doing that but we’ll never know because it’s a secret, right?

8.  Compare compensation practices, including pensions and benefits, against           the local market, adjusting for market conditions in both the private and public employment sectors.

That’s a great suggestion. But will Guelph Council have the political will to           consider it let alone enforce it?

9.  Investigate the magnitude of the city’s future employment liability from           existing retirement plans and investigate options to mitigate any major             exposure.

This is the most pressing financial liability the City of Guelph faces in the near and long term. With a staff costs of salaries, wages, benefits and pensions, now at 89 per cent of the total city budget, the compensation threshold has been breached.

The City of Waterloo’s staff compensation portion of its budget is 56.6 per cent.

Guelph taxpayers need to see a different approach to budgeting. It starts with the staff being informed that last year’s budget is not the starting point but the absolute point.

There is a culture of entitlement pervasive among certain Guelph senior staff members. What is needed is a culture of efficiency that holds the interests of the taxpayers paramount.

Citizens should become aware of the serious problems the city faces and band together to force change.

All you have to do is compare.

Let me know what you think. – gerrybarker 76@gmail.com

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Is this a contract with the devil?

Posted June 23, 2012

Janet Laird, Executive director of Planning, and Building, Engineering and Environment informed Ward 1 Coun. Jim Furfaro of the cost of the 900 tonnes of wet waste from Hamilton.

You remember the stuff had to come from Hamilton, why?

Doesn’t Guelph have enough of the wet waste to feed the operational test to begin in July? Guelph’s wet waste collected in plastic bags is a no-no.

Consider that the amount of wet waste coming from Waterloo also does not meet the feedstock requirement for the crucial test. The test will determine if the plant meets the capacity level contained in the contract.

So, here’s how it works. AIM Environmental, general contractor Maple Reinders’ division, in charge of negotiating supply contracts, is paid $79 a tonne to deliver the Hamilton waste to the compost plant. However, the real cost is a $60 per tonne tipping fee paid to the city.

So the cost of this test, experiment, or whatever, to the city is $17,100.

Why is the city paying anything to confirm the plant is meeting its operating projections according to the contract? It is up to the contractor to deliver a plant that meets the terms of the contract.

Apparently not, as this break-in period has lasted 10 months.

To put it in plain terms, the cost of carrying a $33 million project is $1,650,000 per year at five per cent.  During the time this plant has not performed since last September it has cost an estimated $1,370,500 in interest.

Are we getting nickel and dimed because the contract to build the plant was mishandled and oversight ignored?

The reasons for bringing waste from Hamilton for this test is unclear.

It fits into the murky world of the real operating costs of this $33 million project. The city has steadfastly refused to disclose the operating costs of the plant once it is fully operational.

It has been estimated the real cost of operating the plant is $340 a tonne. That’s a long way from $79 a tonne for tipping fees.

Then Ms. Laird revealed the terms of the contract to receive wet waste from the City of Waterloo.

The contract called for Waterloo to deliver 20,000 tonnes of material to the plant.

AIM, the general contractors sales arm, negotiated the deal and it contains a “put or pay” clause. This requires Waterloo to pay for 20,000 tonnes whether they use it or not.

Here’s the stickler. Waterloo is only able to contribute 10,000 tonnes currently. The “put or pay” clause doesn’t kick in until next year.  It seems the supply of feedstock is uncertain and the City of Guelph must guarantee the required flow of wet waste to the plant.

And that supply contract is held by AIM Environmental, not the city.

Here’s the kicker:  The city is contractually obligated to supply adequate tonnage so the plant can operate at full capacity. And to whom are they obligated? Aim Environmental, the subsidiary of Maple Reinders and operators of the compost plant..

It appears that Maple Reinders has a grip on the compost plant that taxpayers own but cannot control.

It’s time for the city to reveal all the terms and conditions of this multi-corporation waste management contract. Burying the details among a select group of elected and non-elected officials is close to demanding an independent inquiry.

What are the plans to dispose of the tonnes of composted material the plant is supposed to manufacture?

Here’s a suggestion. When the automated waste pick-up truck comes down the street emptying the curbside bins, another truck follows and fills the bins up with fresh compost.

Soon Guelph would be the most composted city in the world. Another first!

Miz Laird, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.

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