Tag Archives: Maple Reinders

Lullaby journalism is alive and well in Guelph

Posted July 1, 2012

On Canada Day morning, I checked out the local daily newspaper that included an insert, a glossy full-colour magazine titled “My Guelph.”

It represents the soft side of the city and is a stepchild of the newspaper with some of its staffers and contributors supplying the marshmallow content.

It is a thinly disguised advertising vehicle masquerading as a city magazine to extract more dollars from the marketplace. Toronto Life it isn’t.

It is yet another example of how critical thinking and investigation of city affairs has disappeared from the print and electronic media.

Another element of lullaby journalism is the Rogers community channel that features soft and flabby coverage of only so-called good news including a misnamed program called “Inside  Guelph.” It is really an extension of the Farbridge Administration’ s tightly wound control of communications.

In our view, the medium is not the real message.

The other troubling aspect is the how Guelph’s print sources of news is controlled by Torstar, corporate umbrella of the Toronto Star, and its suburban publishing operation called Metroland.

Metroland operates the daily Guelph Mercury, the twice weekly Guelph Tribune and now My Guelph magazine.

In the past six years, it is a rare occurrence for the two newspapers to be critical of the city administration including council. For that length of time, Mayor Karen Farbridge and her majority of councillors rarely deviate from the message that’s controlling this city.

Because of this situation, taxpayers do not receive balanced coverage from the corporate controlled print or the television media.

Indeed, questions involving the real costs of major multi-million projects are withheld. As a result, management of city finances has been so manipulated with the apparent concurrence of the outside accounting firm charged with auditing the books.

Running a $174 million operation requires transparent and responsible reporting

For example, what is the true cost of the new Civic Museum? Such questions as how much was spent on the original $12.7 million estimated budget over five years from general funds? There have been vague hints that the cost ballooned to $15.5 million due to unexpected foundation problems. But this was never confirmed.

The real cost of the new $33 million compost plant has been masked with dodging and obfuscation by the staff leadership charged with executing the plan and contract.

Taxpayers have never been informed of the details of the contract signed by the city and general contractor Maple Reinders. This lush contract included two wholly owned subsidiaries of Maple Reinder that won the right to run the plant and procure addition wet waste (feedstock}. This is why the City of Waterloo entered an agreement to supply 20,000 tonnes of wet waste per year.  This side contract was negotiated by AIM Environmental, wholly controlled by Maple Reinders.

Underlying this, is the plant was over-built to meet the needs of Guelph.  It is estimated that our city will never use the capacity of that plant … when it eventually becomes fully operational … for the presumed 20-year lifespan.

Summing up: Guelph taxpayers must guarantee the amount of wet waste to keep the plant in operation daily.  But Aim Environmental has exclusive right to operate the plant and negotiate contracts to bring in additional feedstock.

The city must finance the construction cost. It also must raise an additional $15 million to provide large bins or carts to property owners along with special trucks to remove the contents of the bins. This was because the Ministry of the Environment told the city the plant could not receive the waste in plastic bags. What a surprise!

Was this ever discussed or considered during the contact talks?

Finally, what happens to the tonnes of compost projected to be the end product of the plant?  What is the cost of the heavy trucks coming from other municipalities damaging Guelph streets over time? What is the true operating cost of the plant?

Why haven’t these and a host of other questions been answered by the city administration?

Is lulling you this warm summer into dreaming about cooking the best steak, or advising you how to budget, or advising singles to get into the social whirl, making important matters that affect you, go away? Think again.

The real news is submerged under a barrage of soft pap, served up by self-serving corporate entities that control the message.

So many questions, so few answers.

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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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Microbe Motel will never be free of odours, operators say

Now they tell us.

Some $33 million spent on a plant to handle wet waste and it doesn’t work. Add another estimated $15 million for green bins and the automated trucks to empty them, and we’re staring at almost $50 million.

Ken Spira has some important information in guelphspeaks comments that will astonish the public who have to finance this project.

How did this happen? How could civic staff and council ever approve this spending without considering that it was too expensive and would not meet specifications, particularly eliminating odours.

Did they not realize that the type of material that was being composted was of varying degrees and quality. Each time they process a batch, the recipe is different. What happens when the temperature drops? Do the microbes munching on the stuff curl up and die or just strike because it’s too cold?

Were there no professionals on city staff to warn of this toxic mix that cannot be controlled, no matter what the operators say. Did the city obtain outside advice as to the experience in other communities in handling a mish-mash of wet garbage? In all types of weather?

Now we learn that a stack afterburner costing $59,000 was roughed in but the equipment was not installed. Another rough in was $25,000 for an acid scrubber that the designer of the Plant, Maple Reinders, did not include in the modeling. The entire cost of the acid scrubber is $392,679.58. The Ministry of Environment (MOE) mandated the scrubber had to be installed.

As this horror story unfolds, the reputation of Maple Reinders is slowly sinking as more facts of cost cutting and design shortcuts are revealed.

The responsibility for this lies with Janet Laird, Executive Director of the environmental services and engineering. It is doubtful that she will be asked to resign as she is too close to Mayor Karen Farbridge.

As former president Harry S Truman said: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

That time has arrived.

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Disturbing new questions about Guelph’s compost plant

Thanks to Public Advisory Committee (PAC) member Ken Spira it appears that there are some glaring questions raised about contract changes.

One was a power booster rough-in costing $59,500 that was not part of the original contract.

Another was an acid scrubber that was not part of the original Maple Reinders proposal, but $25,000 was added to the budget for a rough-in of the equipment.

In both cases, the actual cost of the power booster and acid scrubber was not included and the units were not installed.

This is part of the information the PAC will have to parse and comment on in its effort to examine and determine the causes of the plant’s failure to meet environmental standards.

Bill Bardswick, Ministry of Environment Director of West Central Region, was asked if the Certificate of Approval allowed for a “ commissioning or phasing-in period” after the September start-up. He responded NO.

This is only the beginning of the investigation into why the plant failed to curb odours.

Questions citizens should ask include:
Who was minding the store during the run-up of the contract before awarding it to Maple Reinders?
Who in the city administration was overseeing the contract and construction?
Who ordered the change notices?
Who was responsible for due diligence during the design and construction phase?
Who decided to go with a design and construction company that employed two subsidiaries to sell capacity
and operate the facility?

This situation is no trivial matter. There are millions invested in this plant and the PAC has its hands full to discover what happened.

Three citizens of the neighbourhood most affected by the outflow of the plant serve on the PAC group composed of seven members. Two members are employees of the Peel Region waste operations.

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How Farbridge moves the ball downfield

Here is another example how the Farbridge administration shifts responsibility.

The Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) will evaluate the technical report on what’s wrong with the $34 million compost plant. Maple Reinders, designer and contractor of the plant along with its two wholly controlled subsidiary companies, prepared the report.

I’m informed that this report is of such a technical nature that the average person, such as those on the CAC, will not understand the impact of the suggested remedial changes Maple Reinders is proposing.

Taxpayers should ask why the City’s waste management department isn’t vetting this report and recommending its findings to council – the people’s representatives?

It appears this is not a simple operation problem incurred at start-up. It is most likely a design problem that rests with Maple Reinders.

Council chose to get in bed with Maple Reinders because its proposal claimed to be the latest and most innovative solution converting the city’s wet waste into compost. Well, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Is Guelph the guinea pig for radical solutions to convert wet waste into environmentally safe production of compost?

Stay tuned to this. It’s going to be quite a while before a solution is reached. That is if one can be reached.

Meanwhile our Teflon Mayor shifts responsibility onto a volunteer board of citizens.

As usual, it’s your money.

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