Collingwood’s own Gong Show, part 1

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The Gong ShowHas there ever been a more inept, ineffective group at the council table in Collingwood? Certainly not in the 26 years I’ve been here. Not in the dozen years I covered it for the media, not in the 11 years I served on council have I seen anything so comical.

Rogers TV really should put a laugh track on their broadcasts of council meetings. They could call it the Gong Show – had that name not already been taken by a more serious TV show.

But until then, you should watch the December 12, 2016 meeting. You’ll roar, you’ll chuckle, you’ll guffaw over the zany antics of our madcap councillors as they flail about trying to understand what they’re doing. It’s funnier than a Marx brothers’ skit. And it will take more than just this one post for me to cover this slapstick madness. So here’s part one…

Start at 53:14 into the show (I’ll deal with the pointless waste of tax dollars on a peer report about the hospital that says nothing at another time). This is about a letter on the consent agenda (A8) from Collus PowerStream about the final closure of the IT services provided to the town. It says:

We are hoping that we can agree to a very early discontinuation date. We understand, the Town has created specific IT job descriptions with the intention of recruiting for those positions in the very near future. In addition with your recent acquisition of an outside IT consulting firm we believe it is time to operate independently.

At 53:28 Deputy Mayor Saunderson reads the motion, saying, “Moved by myself…” (here’s your first big chuckle of the night: none of the Blockheads know that it should be “moved by me…“! Yuck, yuck, yuck… I guess they don’t teach English in law school…) and then says the town will utilize (why use the solid one-syllable “use” when three bloated syllables will do?) the IT services provided by Collus PowerStream “up to June 30, 2017… or until mutually agreed upon earlier.”

Yep: lotsa laughs already. The Blockheads gutted the shared services agreement and their interfering this term will cost taxpayers at least $1 million more a year starting in 2017. But now they’re in panic mode because they didn’t plan for this.

The agreement actually ended some time ago (end of 2014, I believe), but on the promise of an updated agreement coming, it was extended to January, 2017. So Collus-PowerStream has no obligation to provide ANY services (including billing for water) in 2017. And last Friday PowerStream put in a bid for the town’s share of the utility with a deadline of January 6. After that, there will be no Collus-PowerStream left, just PowerStream. With no obligation to the town whatsoever.

Not to mention that this council and administration have connived behind closed doors to sell our share of our utility without any public input. The administration sent out RFPs trying to find a buyer (ignoring PowerStream’s first right of refusal in the contract…). Hardly conducive for continued relations.

The town already sole-sourced the IT services this fall to a Barrie company (and again without public input). So who do they think is going to going to do the work to complete the transition? And after two years of harassment, bullying and a $500,000 morale-destroying witch hunt cooked up by The Blockheads, everyone at Collus wants to get free of any relationship with the town as soon as possible. January is late enough to be in this viper’s nest.

But The Blockheads press on, oblivious.

Councillor Edwards?At 53:50 Councillor Edwards asks how they came up with the date. He bemoans “we don’t want to be left” without these services. This has been in the works for the past two years and now he starts to pay attention as the barn door swings shut long, long after the horses bolted. Two years this has been going on. Wake up, Mike.

Another guffaw as council blunders about in the dark with no clear idea what the administration is doing to OUR utility. At 54:10, the interim CAO chimes in and tells us “we have had a consultant working with the IT staff that currently provide the service.” Do you recall any public discussion about using your taxes to hire ANOTHER consultant? Any RFPs going out? Of course not. Another sole-sourced deal hatched in secret. How’s that for openness and transparency?

The interim CAO explains his business model for public facilitiesAfter some blather, you realize the interim CAO is talking about hiring more people at town hall to replace the excellent services we once got from Collus-PowerStream at a bargain price. But instead, without public discussion, we’re going to hire outsiders and pay them A LOT MORE to get a fraction of the service we had. More staff at town hall = higher taxes. But hey, you can laugh all the way to town hall when you get to pay more taxes next year as a result of this debacle.

And do you think anyone at Collus-PowerStream has been consulted about that date? Of course not. They haven’t been consulted about any part of this disaster, so why start now?

At 55:45 the interim CAO says he is “reasonably confident they are prepared to assume that responsibility…” In other words, even after more than two years dismantling, the administration doesn’t know if they’ll be ready. Maybe. Reasonably confident. Well, reasonable confidence in the interim CAO’s competence may be at stake, too, if it has taken this long and still nothing has been accomplished.

But I suppose it’s like the “shared services agreement” he’s been promising council and the public for the last two years. A promise with all the credibility of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny… yet the Blockheads believed in it. Probably still do.

At 56:40 he says of the Collus-PowerStream IT services: “Based on their attitude so far, I don’t think there will be any problem extending that (date).” Loud belly laughs! I want what he’s been smoking! The IT staff turned down the administration’s attempts to recruit them already because they want nothing to do with town hall. Nothing! They want to get the hell away from this toxic administration as fast as they can and never, ever have to deal with them again. They said it in their letter:

…Collus PowerStream staff, management and the Board believe the current arrangement is no longer sustainable and needs to be brought to an end as soon as possible.

At 57:30 Councillor Madigan asks to defer the motion until after the next Collus-PowerStream board meeting. Deferring things is basically procrastination by the indecisive, and the next board meeting is the end of January: AFTER the deadline for the PowerStream offer, which, if not accepted, will trigger the shotgun clause and end the relationship 30 days later.

Where have you been all this time, Spongebob? Like Councillor Edwards, it seems you haven’t been paying attention and suddenly now you want to play catch up? Didn’t you read the letter? The board doesn’t consider the relationship sustainable. No one in the utility does. Roll the laugh track…

Cam, & Brian discuss the shared services agreement with TimAt 59:20 Councillor Fryer says he’s finally realized that “the former shared services agreement… is being dismantled.” Get up off the floor. Yes, he really said that. Another one who just started paying attention. And then he says it will increase costs and impact service. Yes, Timmie, I’ve been saying that for two years. So has Collus-PowerStream. So did the former CEO of Collus PowerStream your lot drove to retire from the utility. So did the former COO of the water utility your lot drove to work in another town. So did the utility board that your Block voted to fire so it could be replaced by pet staff. And you never thought once to consider their advice in all that time?

He adds (reading from a script, because I suppose speaking extemporaneously is hard on the brain… but who wrote it for him?), “It can’t be a good practice to take on a changeover using a piecemeal approach, as far as I’m concerned.” I mean it. Stop laughing so I can finish this. Yes, yes, I know: a piecemeal approach is exactly what he and the other Blockheads have been doing this entire term. No plan, no vision, no goals, just destruction. And he just realized now it’s not a “good practice.”

And then he says, “In my opinion it would be premature to project any terminate date.” He wants a staff report on shared services and the “background to date… that allow for a more informed decision at a later date.” Another procrastinator. Sheesh. Can it get more comical? Yes…

Two years this has been going on. TWO YEARS and now he wants to know what it’s been about? TWO YEARS conniving and plotting and destroying behind closed doors, two years of swallowing inaccurate and misleading reports from lawyers and consultants, two years being led by the nose by the administration to this very moment and now he wants to make informed decisions?

I won’t repeat what I said about the flawed process to date or about the finality of the PowerStream offer or even the ineptness of the Blockheads. Just roll your eyes and smother your guffaws. There’s more laughter in store for you.

At 1:00:50, the interim CAO responds by saying “We have to anticipate that the town may want to sell its share” in Collus-PowerStream. What a howler! He hired a lawyer to oversee the sale. He hired consultants to discredit the relationship, the utility and the sale process. He sent out the RFPs asking for bids months ago, and after two years of closed-door meetings about selling the share – with no public input or consultation – and he led the sheep to this pasture. Now he’s saying the town “may” want to sell its share? Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck. What, does he think his sheep migh suddenly start thinking independently?

Keystone copsAnd at 1:01:38 he says this is what “Collus PowerStream staff are suggesting.” No: they weren’t consulted about the date. That’s the administration’s chosen date and like characters in a Keystone Cop slapstick routine, they’re panicking because in a few weeks, the agreement terminates and they haven’t done what’s necessary to bring closure even after two years.

Collus PowerStream staff have been so poorly treated, so harassed by this council and administration they would have left the town to fend for itself months ago if they weren’t so honourable and dedicated. But no more. They want it over in January, not June.

Prepare yourself for the big belly laugh: the interim CAO concludes, “The IT function is proceeding well and appropriately…” That’s so wacky, so off the wall it made me snort tea through my nose when I heard it. Only The Blockheads would fall for that. This been a disaster from day one, and it’s going to cost taxpayers a lot of money in 2017. A LOT.

At 1:02:30 Fryer speaks up and says:

“Yes, I, uh, yes, respectfully, I, I, uh, I don’t inclu…as I said I don’t like the piecemeal approach I think there’s, there’s many facets about the, uh, ummmm, operation of the utility that, er, is going to have a bearing on the town moving forward depending on what it decides, uh, about its uh, its options, ummmmm, and we will receive information tomorrow that’s the first glance at uh, uh, what the possibilities are and uh, and uh, and umm, we’ll talk about how to move through the next stages, uh, so again I say that I, uh, I uh, this goes back to the SIC meeting when the matter was brought up about the amperages of the hardware and I said I wasn’t gonna support it from the standpoint of, I think there’s a whole collection of things that should be looked at in conjunction with, uh, making decisions about, uh, timetables for, er, changing from the shared services approach.”

Got that? Neither did anyone else. This from the guy who used to be the CFO of Collus and was, I’m told, responsible for updating that very same shared services agreement for Collus before he retired. Which didn’t get done. Now, as they consider bids from buyers, he wants to discuss the agreement with a company that desperately wants to get free of this bunch. A face-palm moment if ever there was one.

At 1:03:30 Deputy Mayor “My Way or the Highway” Saunderson says he’s “picking up on the tenor of the conversation” and speaks in lawerly fashion of the “shifting landscape of our examination of the utility.” Doncha just love hot air? It must have felt like a blast furnace in the chamber while he rambled on.

It’s not a shifting landscape, Brian: it’s an icy downhill slope you and your minions have groomed for the toboggan ride.

He speaks again at 1:07:08 and says “I’m satisfied with staff…” or actually:

“Uh, well, I, I, er , um, I’m satisfied with staff, if staff feel that’s a comfortable date…”

Nothing about what Collus staff think about it, of course. Why consult with the corporation you’re trying to destroy or the staff you’ve bullied for two years? Is it comfortable for the people who you expect to do the work without even a thank-you? For the people who hate you, hate your fellow Blockheads and the town’s administration?

Councillor Doherty speaks at 1:07:40 and says… nothing of significance.

At 1:07:45, Our “Trailer Park Mayor” Councillor Ecclestone says, “I don’t think…” which pretty sums up his contribution this term. But he does add that he wants to “extend it out somewhat” – the date that is, not his aged and wrinkled love stick – to “September or something.” Nothing like a solid date to work with. Go back to sleep, Cam.

As the mayor says at 1:08:35, this has to be considered in the 2017 budget – which, it seems, likely won’t be finalized until spring or maybe later. Collingwood seems incapable of preparing and approving a budget before the year it takes effect. All around us, our neighbours have finalized their next year’s budgets and Collingwood is still flailing about, trying to add things to it. Abbott and Costello couldn’t do it better.

At 1:08:50 the clerk tells council June 30 is too long for Collus-PowerStream who are looking to end it “quite soon.” What an understatement.

Madigan rumbles back in at 1:09:10, saying,

That was my previous comment that this, this letter seems to be, but if Mr. Sloan can uh, assure us that, uh, I just didn’t wanna, I wanted to make sure that at no time they could just say ‘we’re leaving.’

Well, guess what, Spongebob? If your interim CAO had spent those 30 minutes required to update the shared services agreement back in 2015 -the agreement that’s still unfinished more than TWO YEARS later – you might have some leverage. As it is, it’s dragged on and the agreement lapses next month. What, you didn’t pay attention to that? You didn’t bother to follow up or do your job as an elected representative? Yes: they’re leaving. This is the official notice.

He adds,

“But if Mr.Sloan assures us that on January 13th we’ll have information and if it’s industry standard to be able to, uh, consult and, um, get in ah, ah, an IT firm within two to three months, then I have no problem doing it in June to give them an open, just, er, I, uh, I didn’t mean to start, to raise, their cause, but it, it reads like they wanna leave now and, and the clerk has just uh, uh, after all that conversation has just, uh, confirmed that so, um, June is fine for me uh I’m happy to support that.”

WTF did he say? Neither do I. What industry, what standard? He and Fryer must have the same writer.

When the mayor tries to call the vote, at 1:10:20, Edwards has to again speak, meandering until 1:10:32 when he says,”Nobody wanted to reach this point.” Well, Mike, if that’s true, why didn’t you speak up at any of the dozens of closed-door meeting when you and the rest of The Block decided to trash the shared services agreement, take the water utility away, change the board and sell our utility these past two years? Why didn’t you raise the shared services agreement at the table and make the interim CAO account for his inability to rewrite it?

Clearly you and the rest of the cabal wanted to get here otherwise you wouldn’t be.

But he adds, at 1:10:38, “It’s apparent, obviously we’ve reached a point, where they, they don’t want to be a supplier any more and er, uh, I guess we don’t have much of a choice. It’s unfortunate in my opinion.” Aww, crocodile tears for the demoralized workers and the 150-year-old relationship you helped demolish. Show some spine, man: own up to your own actions. You and your buddies did this, not someone else.

At 1:11:00 the vote is called. Fryer and Ecclestone voted against it, and it passes. This skit lasted more than 18 minutes and it still didn’t get to the obvious: the January end of the shared services and the PowerStream offer with its Jan. 6 deadline.

This is like the captain of the Titanic wondering how the napkins are being folded in the dining room hours after the ship has hit the iceberg. Watch for part two, coming shortly. You’ll howl, you’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry. And guess what? it’s also about Collus-PowerStream.

Collingwood deserves better.

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