The Block’s worst abuse of power yet

Abuse of powerI warned you. I warned you The Block would blame others for their own evil acts, that they would scheme and connive to sell your assets behind closed doors, and they would find a way to keep the much-disliked interim CAO on, no matter what the cost to taxpayers. I warned you they would lie, scheme in secret, and behave unethically in order to get their own way. 

And I was right. They did it all, Monday night, behind closed doors.

This week, the town issued a media release that can only be described as the most flagrantly disingenuous statement this municipality has ever made. It says:

In order to ensure the process carries on uninterrupted, Council voted to direct the municipality’s legal counsel at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, and CAO John Brown to continue negotiations with EPCOR and prepare the required draft agreements.

The Block intend to keep paying the sole-sourced lawyer (who, I understand, has already billed the town around $500,000) and its unpopular interim CAO (whose salary is higher than that of the premier of Ontario!) in order to continue the vendetta against our publicly-owned utility, Collus-PowerStream.

These are the same people who not long ago promised they were only “kicking tires” and would get public input before they made any decisions. They lied.

Continue reading “The Block’s worst abuse of power yet”

Betrayal by the Block, again

Betrayal of the public trustMonday night, The Block will engage in their favourite political activity: betraying the public trust. In fact, it’s the only political activity they’ve engaged in this term, in which the public has been concerned. Everything else they’ve done has been to further their own personal agendas or entitlement. But Monday, they’re doing it up in style. And, of course, in secret.

At the council meeting, Monday, there is what promises to be a lengthy in-camera session:

Items for Discussion: a) Hydro Share Sale; b) Committee/Board Applications; c) Sale of 70 Huron Street property; d) Proposed Land Acquisition; e) Airport Lands f) BMA Report

During this closed-door session, council will get a presentation from its sole-sourced, $700-an-hour lawyer, and from the for-profit, out-of-province corporation EPCOR, with which the town is negotiating to buy the public’s share of our electrical utility. And I expect The Block will vote to sell the utility to EPCOR, knowing full well it will end any pretense of accountability with the utility and will result in skyrocketing electrical bills in the very near future. EPCOR will have a clause in its contract GUARANTEEING them a profit. And if you conserve electricity as you should, and the usage goes down, they will be able to raise rates to get their money and the town will be forced to pay the difference (via your tax dollars). All done behind closed doors.

The Block have never discussed in public why they want to sell the utility, what the town will get for it, what the benefits are to the residents, why they chose EPCOR instead of our partner PowerStream, or whether local people will still continue to have jobs after the sale. Nor do we know whether any of them, any staff members, or any of the sole-sourced lawyers and consultants involved will get a commission or any other kickback from the sale. The Block have never once reached out to the council of the 4,000-plus Collus-PowerStream customers outside Collingwood, to even inform them of the sale.

We, the public, deserve to know. It’s OUR utility. But The Block don’t give a damn about what we think. They’ve proven that over and over and over.

Compare Collingwood’s secretive, highly deceptive and unethical process with that of Wasaga Beach. The Beach council recently decided to investigate selling its electrical utility and went through a lengthy process of open public meetings, online surveys, public engagement and presentations. But then, Wasaga Beach has an ethical council – that’s the difference. Not once in the past two-and-a-half years has this council done any of that. And the local media, in collusion with The Block, have remained silent on this abuse of power.
Continue reading “Betrayal by the Block, again”

What will the secret EPCOR negotiations cost us?

Shady dealsI was reading about the failed attempt by EPCOR – an Edmonton-based, for-profit corporation – to purchase half of Innisfil’s Power utility (InnPower) last year. Back in Sept., 2015, there was a story in the
Barrie Examiner that noted:

INNISFIL — Town council has approved the sale of 50% of InnPower (formerly Innisfil Hydro) to Edmonton-based EPCOR to create a new ‘strategic partnership’.

At a public meeting to discuss the sale (remember public meetings and public engagement? Those are processes you got last term… this term it’s all about secrecy), PowerStream’s CEO, Brian Bentz commented on

…the “exclusivity clause” in the EPCOR offer, which precludes consideration of other deals for a period of six months…

EPCOR, you may recall, is currently trying to buy the town’s half of Collus-PowerStream. The administration has been negotiating behind closed doors with EPCOR for the better part of a year. Earlier this year, the administration signed a deal to start the buying process. Is there a similar clause in the agreement with Collingwood?

In Innisfil, the public was given a chance to openly comment on the proposal (an event unlikely to happen here in Secretive Collingwood under The Block). Former Innisfil mayor Barb Baguley spoke out about the process (Barrie Examiner):

During the open forum portion of Tuesday night’s meeting, former Innisfil mayor Barb Baguley took exception to the town even considering such a partnership for water and wastewater services and questioned why residents weren’t better informed about the potential partnership discussions.
“The issue of selling any part of it is something I’m really concerned about,” she said. “My question is, if you are going to sell the safety of water and the protection of Lake Simcoe with wastewater treatment, shouldn’t we be talking about that? Shouldn’t we be having a conversation with the public?
“I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. There’s not enough information for people to make a somewhat educated opinion,” she added. “It had not come out that clearly…”
“I don’t think we have to know every paragraph in a contract. We need to know the intention and why we need to do this,” she said. “I’m not saying I’m for or against (a water and wastewater services partnership). I’m saying I don’t understand.

At least the residents in Innisfil were given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Nothing like that has happened in Collingwood, although the discussions here have been going on behind closed doors since January 2015.

And look the whole public engagement Wasaga Beach has gone through over the sale of its utility this term: open, active and transparent. The complete opposite of what Collingwood has done.

Continue reading “What will the secret EPCOR negotiations cost us?”

We were lied to. Again.

DeceitOn Monday, the Block chose a new representative for the town’s half of the Collus-PowerStream board. They advertised the position in the local media and accepted applications from several qualified local residents. They made it look like they were actually going to follow the proper and legal process for the first time. They went in camera to discuss the applications. And who did they appoint when they came out?

Councillor Deb “What’s a dividend?” Doherty. Yes, the same councillor who complained about not getting a dividend from the utility after she and her colleagues gutted the utility and killed its revenue stream. The same councillor who complained that in the 50% board partnership in which each side has the same number of votes, the other side “holds all the cards,” sets the rules and controlled the purse strings. The same councillor who has NEVER once this term gone to the utility to speak to its staff or find out their side of the story the administration has been spinning.

That’s right: The Block chose one of their own, and arguably the least qualified person among them to hold that position.

What a slap in the face to all those applicants who put their names forward, thinking The Block would act in good faith. Wouldn’t that have been a pleasant change? But of course they didn’t.

They blatantly ignored the public applications. They intended to do so all along. The whole public application thing was a lie. A despicable act of deception.

This is so unethical, so outright underhanded and sneaky it beggars further description.

Continue reading “We were lied to. Again.”

Collus-PowerStream responds about dividend

No dividendOn the April 24 council agenda is an addendum that includes the response from Collus-PowerStream about The Block’s questions over the lack of a dividend from the utility. I wrote about this last month in Dividends for Dummies. I’m glad to see what I wrote then has been proven correct.

The original letter from CPS back in February, stated, “The Board decision was based on the Dividend Policy of the Corporation including consideration of an appropriate capital structure and working capital levels required to continue to operate as a viable business.” Clearly none of The Block had the slightest clue what a dividend is (they aren’t a very bright lot, financially speaking), so they demanded instead a letter explaining why they didn’t get one. Hence my post Dividends for Dummies.

Before you read on, let me remind you that The Block fired its original appointees to the utility board because those appointees wouldn’t act in an unethical manner and divulge confidential, personal information about staff that is protected under Ontario’s Corporations Act. The administration and The Block had a hissy fit that they couldn’t get their way. In a tantrum, they fired the board. Illegally, of course.

The Block illegally replaced these three people with three members of the town’s administration (the interim CAO, the clerk and the treasurer – none of whom had any experience in the electricity sector). When the Ontario Energy Board slapped the town’s wrist for this unethical act, The Block removed the interim CAO and the treasurer and replaced them with two out-of-town lawyers (one from Ottawa, the other from the GTA, both recommended by the lawyer the town sole-sourced to oversee the share sale – anyone see a conflict here?).

So now all of the three town appointees live out of town, and there is no representation from anyone local who is a Collus-PowerStream customer. The whole process violated the town’s own bylaws and policies for board and committee appointments, but The Block and the administration hid behind the very Corporations Act they vilified earlier and claimed it gave them the right to break their own laws. Ain’t hypocrisy grand?

One of these later appointees is the town clerk who sits at the table every council meeting. During the whole Block bluster and blather at the table about the non-payment of a share dividend, NONE of them thought to simply turn their head and ask the clerk about it. None of them asked the board member sitting beside them. None of them were bright enough to figure out that at least one of their own appointees voted not to provide a dividend.

The town got the CPS response on April 7. It lists five points and explains in detail how and why dividends are calculated. I know what you’re thinking: it’s too much information for the Blockheads to digest. And I agree. I doubt one of them will get it even with this fulsome explanation. But you, dear reader, are smart enough to understand it, so read it now. Keep in mind while you do so that every board decision requires at least four of the six members to agree. At least one of Collingwood’s three appointees voted in favour of withholding the dividend.

You know how unlikely it is that most of The Block will actually read the whole letter from start to finish. They hate reading, hate learning things that contradict their alt-fact ideology. They had their minds made up about it before it arrived. They they will misrepresent it at the table and play the blame game. Just watch.
Continue reading “Collus-PowerStream responds about dividend”

Dividends for dummies

DividendsA dividend, as defined by the Business Dictionary, is “A share of the after-tax profit of a company, distributed to its shareholders…” This is reiterated in the description from the Oxford Dictionary: “A sum of money paid regularly (typically annually) by a company to its shareholders out of its profits (or reserves).”

So in order to pay a dividend, you need to make a profit. Otherwise all your revenue goes to operating expenses, salaries and taxes. And a dividend isn’t paid to just one person or shareholder: if one shareholder gets one, then every shareholder gets one. Dividends are NOT automatic, are NOT paycheques.

Now say you were a shareholder, and you stripped the revenue stream away from a company you own shares in, and in doing so, you reduced its profit to zero, and say you also caused it greater expenses – say by forcing it to pay more for legal advice or transportation and accommodations for out-of-town shareholders – would you still expect a dividend?

Common sense tells us no. No profit: no dividend.* But common sense is an uncommon attribute at our council table.

On March 13’s agenda, there was a letter from Collus-PowerStream saying the board had decided not to pay a dividend for 2015, and would decide about 2016 after it examined the company’s audited financial statements. (on the Rogers TV broadcast, it starts at 0:18:13, just after the lengthy, self-serving “community” announcements… go past Councillor “Sleepy” Ecclestone’s painful “moved by myself” grammatical error to 0:22:22).

This, course, sent The Block into a tizzy. At 0:22:37 Sleepy again does another “moved by myself” gaffe to introduce a motion to request “an explanation of why the board has chose (sic) not to declare a dividend…” and to “express our concern and disappointment.”
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Saunderson announces another tax hike

Sneaky BrianAt Collingwood Council, Monday night, Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson revealed The Block’s plan to foist its third tax hike this term on residents. Despite the report on the town’s financial situation by the interim CAO’s pet consultant that warned Collingwood is already overtaxed, Saunderson and his Block plan to raise your taxes AGAIN this term.

At the end of the meeting, he made a notice of motion to “keep” the next tax hike at 2%. Well that simply means he’s giving staff the permission to raise it 2%*. Had he been serious about low taxes, about sustainable budgets and wise financial management, he could have simply said no increase. Zero per cent would have been the right answer. But he made it clear he supports another tax hike – the third this term. And wither Brian goes so follows his six minions.

Now lest you think this is just more of Saunderson’s lawerly, grandstanding moments – him pretending to be concerned about residents – it’s really the sort of political flimflammery we’ve become accustomed to from The Block. Consider that he made this notice before seeing the final budget documents, but long after council was presented its initial look at the upcoming budget. That was when staff proposed a hike of almost 5%.

Saunderson had weeks and weeks in which to comment and make his motion, but only made his preference known the week before the final budget is to be presented, Jan. 30. But the public didn’t know what he was planning because he announced his notice after the in camera meeting, when all the cameras were turned off and everyone in the audience had gone home. Even the media ignored him. What did it accomplish aside from forcing staff to rework everything they have prepared for presentation next week? Just a little slap in the face to staff, don’t you think?

It’s only two percent, some might say. Anyone can afford that. Not so: it will hurt our many residents working for minimum wages, and every senior struggling on a fixed income. These folk will have to figure out what to cut from their limited income – like food or hydro – to pay for the town’s latest increase. And also pay for the impending increases in user fees, and skyrocketing water and electricity rates – about to explode thanks to The Block selling our utilities to an Alberta corporation. Without public input, of course.

Two percent means more than $1 million in the town’s coffers – which will be entirely used up paying for the extra expenses incurred by breaking the shared services agreement with Collus PowerStream, and for the huge bill for creating our own IT department. Plus we’ll still have to pay for hiring all those extra staff – and of course pay for the costs of The Block’s vendettas and witch hunts – already well over $500,000 in lawyers and consultants so far. And the $100,000-$150,000 extra it has cost us by The Block renewing the interim CAO’s contract.

For astute financial management, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for inept bumbling, you’ve come to the right council. The Block are spending your money like drunken sailors who won a lottery while on leave; they’re ratcheting up your taxes to pay for their excesses. All part of The Block’s ongoing war against low-income earners and seniors.

Collingwood deserves better.
~~~~~
* Sure, he said “up to 2%” but that’s like telling a child it can only have “up to a quart” of ice cream… and then leaving them in the kitchen with the opened gallon container… plus the additional levy approved this term will make it closer to 3%… and yes, a levy IS a tax no matter how the Blockheads try to spin it.

You’ve been duped. Again.

Duped againRemember all those blithe assurances from The Block that they were only “kicking tires” and “just exploring our options”? Well, there’s a story in the Connection that shows just how much you have been conned by your elected representatives. It’s titled,”Collingwood to continue utility sale negotiations with unnamed bidder.”

Read that headline again. Pay attention to two words: negotiations and continue. How can they be “kicking tires” or “exploring options” while continuing to negotiate with a company? A company The Most Secretive Council Ever won’t even name, but had its representatives in the room yesterday?

It’s all been a thin lie. A con game. And the result will be the loss of our public utilities at a huge expense to the taxpayer.

Council voted 7-2 — with Mayor Sandra Cooper and Coun. Kevin Lloyd opposed — to authorize solicitor Mark Rodger and chief administrative officer John Brown to “pursue further detailed discussion with one RFP proponent” that had responded to the town’s request for proposals for the town-owned share of Collus-Powerstream.

The sorry truth about the two years of backroom deals by The Most Secretive Council Ever has been revealed. This is the secret deal to privatize our electrical and water utilities I warned you about earlier. It’s been planned for the past two years and is finally coming to closure.

That unnamed bidder is most likely the Edmonton-based energy giant, EPCOR. Your public utility services are soon to be in their hands without any input or consultation with you, the owners of those services. Your rates will skyrocket, you will have no say about the service. There will be no accountability or openness. Just what The Block wants.

The only two on council who haven’t been scheming and plotting against the public’s interest are Mayor Cooper and Councillor Lloyd. The rest have acted in bad faith and betrayed the public trust.

Collingwood deserves better. And we deserve a full investigation into this, not only the process but to see if anyone benefitted from misuse of public money.

Council is privatizing our utilities

Water costs
Collingwood council and its administration are planning to privatize both our water and electricity utilities. All, of course, without consulting you, the public. Some members of council have even stated – with a straight face, mind you – they would ask for your input at a later date. A date long after it’s too late for public input to matter, of course.

They have already engaged in negotiations with outside companies to take over our utilities, all the while pretending they were just “kicking the tires.” They appointed their lawyer to oversee the sale. Consultants made reports painting the existing situation with faux negativity, from early 2015.

In 2012, the former council determined (after considerable public discussion and public consultation) to sell only 50% of its share in the electrical utility, not 100%, and not water, because that would mean a loss of control over services and rates, loss of accountability and openness, plus additional liabilities. This council is determined to give away those controls, reduce accountability and transparency. It will cost taxpayer millions. And they’re doing it all in secrecy.

“I will assure you, no decisions have been made, we are just exploring our options with any interested parties,” Councillor Madigan said last July – facetiously I assume, because by that time, more than 18 months of in camera discussions had been held. Surely he was awake through at least one of them.

Council has acted in bad faith and conned the public about this ever since it took office. No one expects them to be honest or open about it now. Their plan was made evident in 2015 when The Block fired the existing water utility board (a group of talented professionals with considerable experience in water) in violation of the town’s procedural bylaw, and replaced them with five members of their own group – none of whom have any experience in water or wastewater (and none of whom have any talent). That signalled their intentions.

A recent request for proposals (RFPs) for the sale of the town’s share of the electrical utility was sent to utility corps – including, people in the industry lead me to believe, EPCOR, in Alberta. These RFPs belie that pretense that this is just “kicking the tires.” It’s always been a full-blown conspiracy to privatize our utilities. You don’t send out RFPs to corporations just to see if they’re interested. You do it because you intend to sell. Once started, the process is irrevocable. And inevitably expensive.*

But electricity is only part of the plan. All along it’s been a bigger picture: to sell both electricity and water/wastewater services. And let the taxpayer pay for the fallout. As Food and Water Watch documented (in the USA):

Investor owned utilities typically charge 59 percent more for water service than local government utilities. Food & Water Watch compiled the water rates of the 500 largest community water systems in the country and found that private, for-profit companies charged households an average of $501 a year for 60,000 gallons of water — $185 more than what local governments charged for the same amount of water. Investor owned utilities typically charge 63 percent more for sewer service than local government utilities. Food & Water Watch compiled sewer rates survey data from dozens of states and found that private ownership increased sewer bills by 7 percent in West Virginia to 154 percent in Texas.

Continue reading “Council is privatizing our utilities”

The PowerStream deadline looms today

Our Council Blockheads at workBig day for Collus-PowerStream today: the deadline for acceptance of PowerStream’s sale offer for the remaining share of our utility expires this afternoon. And of course Council will finally deal with it at the special meeting called for noon, today, mere hours before it expires. Nothing like waiting until the last moment. They’ve had a month to deal with it, but that’s our council: inept and procrastinating until the end.

Like I wrote in December, if not accepted, this will trigger the shotgun clause in the shareholders’ agreement and force the issue (see below). Council could have avoided the deadline and the shotgun by simply agreeing to waive the right of first refusal and the shotgun clauses as PowerStream requested before submitting its bid, but no one in The Block was bright enough to realize the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train.

The Block will be like flies stuck in amber: frozen by their failed ideology and innate stupidity; unable to respond effectively while the deputy mayor and the interim CAO try desperately to spin the issue as PowerStream’s fault instead of a debacle of their own making. That’s been the storyline fed to council and the public for the past two years and they’ll stick with it despite it having been exposed here as a poorly written fiction for a long time now.*

As evidence of their ineptitude, any bids for the share received from the RFP sent out last fall are supposed to be discussed at council’s January 20 meeting. Two weeks after today’s deadline. That’s a true Homer Simpson “Doh!” moment.

And if you’re a council watcher, you’ll recall the gormless Blockheads mouthing bromides about “kicking the tires” and “getting public input” – all the while scheming and conniving behind closed doors (where they will be, again, today). And now they’re stuck. They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind. Ain’t karma a bitch?
Continue reading “The PowerStream deadline looms today”

Collingwood’s own Gong Show, part 2

Keystone councilAs promised, here is the second part of the Gong Show analysis from December 12th’s council meeting. Like I said earlier, it’s perhaps more like a Keystone Cops or Abbott and Costello skit than the TV show.

As always, you can follow along on the Rogers Community TV broadcast, starting at 2:16:30. Laugh aloud at the zany, misinformed antics of your elected representatives as they fumble and stumble their way through an agenda of items they clearly have no clue about. You should start with part 1 of my review, if you haven’t already read it.

And by the end of this post you can decide which of these titles best suits our Blockheads:

  1. The Most Secretive Council Ever
  2. The Most Inept and Ineffective Council Ever
  3. The Most Devious Council Ever
  4. The Most Disrespectful Council Ever
  5. The Most Corrupt Council Ever
  6. The Most Underhanded Council Ever
  7. The Most Petty and Vindictive Council Ever
  8. All of the above.*

So first take a look at a letter that appeared on the consent agenda of the Strategic Initiatives Committee from Dec. 7 (SIC is one of those dysfunctional and inefficient council committees created by the interim CAO, yet embraced by Blockheads at the table with no experience in process or politics who prefer to flail and fumble rather that govern efficiently). See page 96 for the letter, which says in part:

Please accept this letter as confirmation that Collus PowerStream will not be renewing its existing computer rental agreement with the Collingwood Public Utilities that expires December 31st, 2016.
With regard to the existing equipment, the Board of Directors at our November 25th meeting authorized me to offer a one-time payment of $23,920.00 plus any applicable taxes for the attached listing of user workstation equipment and associated accessories (keyboards, mice, cables etc.) we are currently using and are interested in acquiring.
We ask that you please confirm acceptance of this offer by end of day December 15th, 2016. This will allow us sufficient time to make alternate arrangements prior to year-end for replacement hardware should the Town choose to not accept this offer.

Some key concepts here to keep in mind:

  • The board authorized the request and amount offered;
  • The agreement to rent equipment ends Dec. 31 at the same time the shared services agreement ends;
  • CPS needs to know by Dec. 15 and it’s already Dec. 12;
  • The offer is more than three times what the equipment is worth.

Simple, right? Apparently not for everyone.

Some history: Collus always provided the software and the technical support for the town’s computers as part of the shared services agreement. The agreement ended in 2014 but was extended until the end of 2016 so the interim CAO could present an update agreement. It still hasn’t been done.

The town (in this case the water department) purchased the hardware and rented/leased it back to Collus (later Collus-PowerStream, CPS) for just under $22,000 a year to provide a revenue stream to the town. With the unrelenting harassment of the utility and its staff by The Blockheads and the administration, CPS wants to get as far away from this viper’s nest as possible. CPS offered to buy the remaining hardware – mostly used notebooks, monitors, mice, cables and keyboards – from the town. And end another revenue stream to the town from the utility.**

used computersNow, keep in mind that this is all equipment CPS is using, not another town department or service. Whenever a department needs computer equipment, that department head purchases it. No department head has asked for any of this equipment, not least of all because it’s old and used and they can get new with a signature on a slip of paper.

And it’s all at least 3-4 years old (which means the laptops may not even be up to running Win 10) and may not be in the best shape after daily use for that time. Much of it would normally be replaced with new equipment in the next 12-28 months as per the town’s hardware replacement cycle.

But our Blockheads are apparently experts on IT, even though some of them can’t even configure their own home wireless without IT intervention.

And don’t forget: the shared services agreement to provide IT services to the town ends in January, 2017, before that vaunted mid-month report from the consultant. Second, the recent PowerStream offer to buy the Collus share has a deadline of Jan. 6. If accepted, there will be no relationship of any sort between the utility and the town. And if not accepted, PowerStream will invoke the shotgun clause and the whole shebang will unravel 30 days later.

This where the fun starts – be prepared to laugh and roll your eyes. And to shake your head in wonder at the pettiness of our Blockheads.

And then gasp in disgust at the backstabbing and deviousness that happened a mere two days later. Of course, you won’t read any of this in the local media. You’re welcome.
Continue reading “Collingwood’s own Gong Show, part 2”

Collus share bid received

My sources tell me PowerStream submitted a bid to purchase the town’s share of the Collus-PowerStream utility, late on Friday, December 9. While the amount was not stated, I am told it is a “very fair” bid. This is so far going as I predicted in my earlier post.

PowerStream paid $8 million cash for half the share in 2012 (with another $6.4 million coming through Collus from notes and recapitalization), but since then The Block and town administration gutted the board (twice), joyfully ruined the shared services agreement, and happily took away the water side thus reducing the utility’s revenue considerably. Done over two years of secret conniving behind closed doors.

IT services is hanging by a thread – town hall pulled the plug and secretly contracted (apparently sole-sourced without RFP or RFQ) with a Barrie company to do the work. And council approved Collus buying the remaining hardware so the cord has been almost fully cut. The IT relationship with Collus and the town is likely to be cancelled by January 1.

For many years, the town got exemplary IT service at a hugely discounted cost from Collus. The new contract with the out-of-towners will cost taxpayers tens of thousands more every year, but hey, it’s only money, right? Your money, of course, but what do our Blockheads care about you?

All that’s left is billing for the water side, still done by Collus, but thanks to town administration and our Blockheads, is about to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars more a year when the share sale goes through.

Given the Block’s active and aggressive devaluation of the utility since the 2012 sale of 50%, I doubt the book value of the utility is more than $5 million now. However, PowerStream may offer more than that if for no other reason than to end the harassment and bullying and get away from the town as quickly as possible.

The deadline for the town to accept or reject the bid is, I believe, Friday, January 6, 2017, just under a month away. And that’s with the sword-of-Damocles shotgun clause hovering over their heads. Not very much time for a council whose term has been showcased by flailing inaction, and gormless dithering to make an actual decision. I bet the Blockheads do what the administration tells them to do, just like they always have.

Continue reading “Collus share bid received”

Stumbling towards the utility’s demise

The Return of ChanduThis week, Collingwood Council met in a special meeting to discuss an request from its utility partner, PowerStream, to waive some conditions of the shareholder agreement. This meeting appears to have been called by the interim CAO, which seems to me to usurp the mayor’s authority, but we know the administration – in partnership with The Block – has long been pulling the strings in this town to serve its own ends. Plus the meeting was held mid-day at the fire hall; a time and location that appears intended to deter both public and media presence.

Well while the public was deterred, the media were present, but nothing appeared in either paper. That doesn’t surprise me in the increasingly lax EB, but I expected better from the Connection. Finally, a story appeared in the online Connection, Friday. And it – as is too often the case with local media – doesn’t tell the whole story.

First read the waiver requested by Powerstream here. It asks the town to waive, “…Article 7, Article 8 and Article 9 thereof, for purposes of the Offer up until December 14, 2016.”

Got that? No, probably not. What it means is that PowerStream intends to present its offer early next week, but doesn’t want the offer to invoke terms in the agreement that would trigger the shotgun clause. And what, you ask, is the shotgun clause? Well, let’s do a quick review of the history first.

In 2011, the former council initiated a public process to explore opportunities to sell all or a portion (up to 50%) of our electrical utility. After several public information sessions in which public input and comment was sought, and after the issue was discussed in public at the council table, requests for proposals (RFPs) were sent out to prospective LDCs across the province. A strategic committee consisting of the utility board, staff, the mayor and KPMG Consultants was created to oversee the process and report to council and the public. All of the RFPs came in for purchase at EXACTLY 50%. No one wanted to buy less and the direction from council was to sell no more than half.

After a lengthy review and analysis of the offers, PowerStream was chosen as the winner. The offer was reviewed by their lawyers and accountants, our lawyers and accountants, the lawyers and accountants and council members of their three member municipalities. The process then moved to the Ontario Energy Board whose lawyers and accountants reviewed it. And then Energy Probe’s lawyers and accountants reviewed it. Everyone approved it, the finances were clean. The deal was sealed.

In the agreement were two important clauses. First, each side had the first right of refusal to buy the other half, should the partner ever want to sell its share. Second is the shotgun clause: should either party want to sell or buy, it can make an offer to the other party. If that offer is not accepted, then the rejecting party is bound to purchase the remaining half at the amount stated in the offer. And do it within 30 days.

So why did Powerstream want to waive these clauses? Well, first of all, the town sent out RFPs to several other LDCs in the province, totally ignoring PowerStream’s first right of refusal. Yes, it’s highly unethical and sure looks illegal to me, but that’s the way things are done here this term.

I suspect PowerStream – being an honourable company highly regarded by everyone outside our town hall – decided not to drag the bad faith shown again by our town into a legal battle which would further tarnish our badly tattered reputation. And one we would lose. Badly.

Second, PowerStream clearly wants to put its offer in along with those expected (or possibly already received) from the RFP, and not force the shotgun clause. In other words, to have its offer considered in context with the rest, not start the irrevocable process the shotgun clause will effect.

And guess what The Block did? Yep: they voted NOT to waive the clauses. The Block demanded 45 days to consider the request. Which is risible since the letter clearly states an offer is coming December 14, not sometime in February. 

Continue reading “Stumbling towards the utility’s demise”

Those pesky costs The Block forgot to mention

Hidden costsWho sends out your water bills? Collus-PowerStream. It’s all part of the shared services agreement. Yes, that simple little agreement that for 15 productive, cooperative years linked our water and electrical utilities with mutual resources. That same agreement The Block dismantled and handed over to the interim CAO two years ago to rewrite and update. A 30-minute job that still hasn’t been completed. And never will be.

Who takes the data from the meters, calculates the charges, prints and folds the bills, inserts them into envelopes and puts them through the postage meter? Collus-PowerStream.

Who handles the automatic payments, the credit card and debit card payments, cashes the cheques and takes payment in person? Collus-PowerStream.

Who applies the payment it to your account and calculates any credit or debit? Collus-PowerStream.

Who answers the customer calls, explains the bills, makes changes of address or ownership to bills, opens new accounts, closes inactive accounts? Collus-PowerStream.

Who chases delinquent accounts and who works with customers in difficult situations? Collus-PowerStream.

Who banks the money and pays the town their share? Collus-PowerStream.

Our share of the electrical utility is about to be sold – YOUR utility – even though you never got even one chance to voice any say in the matter. It was all done in secret, connived behind closed doors with lawyers and consultants without any public discussion. 

Who pays for the cost of billing and mailing once the deal is closed? YOU will. Oh dear, did the administration neglect to warn you about this?

Continue reading “Those pesky costs The Block forgot to mention”

552 kWh? We can do better

Power conservationI received a report in the mail from Collus PowerStream giving me an overview of my electricity usage for the one-month period of August. A hot, humid August that no doubt had us running the air conditioner and ceiling fans more often than we normally do (we actually like it warm most of the time).

I really appreciated getting the notice because we care about conservation. I always want to know more about our energy and water use, especially as the utility rates continue to escalate. Anything we can do to keep the bills low is something we examine carefully. I wish our water utility would do the same. *

For that one month, August, we burned 552 kWh (kilowatt hours). In comparison, our neighbours burned an average of 888 kwh each. But out more “efficient” neighbours only burned 395. **

Who these neighbours are is never stated. There is no demographic or other data to properly compare with. Are they full time or part time residents? What ages and do they have children? Do they own and use air conditioners? Do they have electric or gas heating? Electric stoves and dryers? What is the geographic range of the zone that defines them? What does the term “efficient” mean? All of these would help me understand my notice. The information doesn’t really let us compare our use against theirs in any meaningful way.

The annual summary on page two shows we were about the same usage last October (why then?) but we stayed below 400 kWh from then until July, when the heat and humidity soared. We were actually below our more “efficient” neighbours for five of those months and about the same for two. So for seven out of 12 months we were at the forefront of local conservation.

But what could we have done better? It’s hard to understand what we can still do. We’re very conservation-minded for both water and power and have done a lot already.

Continue reading “552 kWh? We can do better”