You may have learned from our local media that the new water treatment plant costs have doubled to almost $121 million — suggesting massive increases in your water bill and likely your property taxes are coming. The flaccid media coverage of this outrage didn’t explore the consequences of the increase, of course.
As the story in CollingwoodToday notes, the egregious increase was sprung at the March 7 strategic initiatives standing committee meeting:
Community benefit changes also being added include adding park washrooms to the property, a sidewalk on Raglan Street and electric vehicle charging stations. A 10 per cent contingency has also been added. The additions will trickle down to a total project cost of $102.7 million, which, when adjusted for inflation, town treasurer Monica Quinlan explained would reach about $120.9 million.
But surely adding a few washrooms wouldn’t increase it that much… and surely the town has approached their own EPCOR utility to install the charging stations at their cost, not taxpayers’ expense, since EPCOR benefits from them?
And surely someone in town hall saw this coming months ago… so why did it come as a surprise to our council? Aside from the fact they pay little to no attention to anything but their own benefits, that is (don’t get me started on how many raises and expense account boosts our greedy council have given themselves this term!).
So what’s the real reason costs have doubled? Well, it’s all because this council has been stunningly incompetent and inept, and self-absorbed, as I’ve documented in many posts here. Our council deliberately ignored staff reports and looming contract deadlines so they could focus on pandering to our mayor’s petty, personal vendetta (the SVJI) to the exclusion of all other issues. And this is the result. It’s almost as if they planned it to happen this way.
In the story, Coun. Jeffrey is quoted as sounding surprised. She assumed a deer-in-the-headlights-what’s-that-coming-at-me position, but like the rest of them at the table, not accepting any responsibility for their own failure to pay attention to community matters:
“Holy guacamole! We need what we need and this is a big conversation. It’s a little bit scary. I’m just not sure what the impact is going to be on the town budget.”
If only she and the rest of this cabal had paid attention when staff warned them numerous times (last term and earlier this term) about the pipeline contract years before it was due to expire. Or had not cancelled the discussions with New Tecumseth and other municipalities when previous staff negotiated a deal to expand our water treatment plant and have Bradford pay the costs back in 2015 (see the story here). We would have a new, expanded plant by now, at little to no cost to local ratepayers.*
If only she and the rest of this cabal had consulted with the water industry and with local developers about options and solutions before they panic-passed their job-revenue-and-growth-killing interim control bylaw (ICBL) like a room full of Chicken Littles screaming the sky was falling, while blaming their ineptness on a non-existent “water crisis.”
If only the previous council (on which Saunderson, Jeffrey, Madigan, and Doherty sat) had not disbanded the water services board, thus removing the non-political and professional oversight committee that could have ensured years ago that none of this clusterfuck happened.
If only our mayor had shown even a smidgeon of leadership, even a tiny glimmer where he just once acted like a mayor, and consulted with someone aside from himself, things might have gone in another direction and we wouldn’t be faced with a jaw-dropping DOUBLING of the plant cost. Saunderson was, of course, too busy this term planning to leave his dull mayoral role for a better-paying job in Queen’s Park to pay attention to anything as trivial as Collingwood’s interests.
This is the result: an abject failure, once again, of our council, the vacuum of leadership, none of them at the table taking the slightest responsibility for their own mistakes, and a whopping bill for taxpayers to shoulder. **
Collingwood deserves better.
* Of course, back in 2015 (last term), the council cabal and the administration had no interest in expanding the plant because they were secretly trying to give (yes: GIVE) our public water utility to EPCOR to sweeten the deal to privatize our public electricity utility. When that underhanded attempt became public, the town backed off, but also killed the negotiations that would have seen the plant expansion funded by the municipalities along the pipeline. The electricity utility was subsequently privatized without any public consultation, all done behind closed doors, deceptively and secretly, using a sole-sourced lawyer from our mayor’s former employers to close the deal. Our council did nothing since then to solve the water problem they all knew was coming.
** And lest we forget our council has also wasted more than $10 million of taxpayers’ money on Saunderson’s petty vendetta — much of it spent on sole-sourced contracts to our mayor’s former employers — and they still continue to throw money at it. All because a decade ago a previous council and staff refused to give the YMCA the $35 million handout Saunderson and his Central Park advisory committee requested, and instead found a better, less expensive, and more public solution to meet the community’s recreational needs. That council was too aware of the need for costly future wastewater and water plant upgrades to give $35 million of taxpayers’ money away to a private corporation that doesn’t even pay local property taxes.