Landfill

June 20, 2015 – Freedom of Information Request about Landfill

On June 8, 2015, Mr. Moore provided his response to my FOI request of May 7.

Here are the documents Mr. Moore provided:

1. Letter report from Gamsby and Mannerow Limited (G&M) and dated March 10, 2011 re: Environmental Monitoring Data;
2. Annual Operations Report (2010) prepared by G&M for the Sullivan site (March 2011);
3. Annual Operations Report (2011) prepared by G&M for the Sullivan site (March 2012);
4. Annual Operations Report (2012) prepared by G&M for the Sullivan site (March 2013);
5. Annual Operations and Environmental Monitoring Report (2013) prepared by G&M for the Sullivan site (March 2014);
6. Letter report dated March 10, 2015 from GM Blue Plan Engineering (GMBP) to the Director of Public Works of the Municipality of Grey Highlands re: 2014 Annual Monitoring Report for the Markdale/Holland site;
7. Annual Operations & Environmental Monitoring Report (2014) prepared by GMBP for the Sullivan site (March 2015);
8. Letter to the MoE from GMBP dated March 30, 2015 re: Annual Monitoring Report (2014) for the Sullivan site; and
9. Letter of clarification to Will Moore from GMBP dated June 8, 2015 re: references to the “joint landfill site” referred to in the May 7, 2014 letter.

It appears that Mr. Moore did not fail to produce documents as I had feared. Rather, taxpayers’ business in the Township of Chatsworth seems to be done without any records. No written political direction, no opportunity for Councillors to discuss at open meetings, no emails, no correspondence, no consideration of options, no studies, no special reports … nothing!

I touched on towards the end of my June 19 letter to Mr. Moore when I said this:

In the circumstances, I must say that I am surprised by the practise whereby decisions are evidently being made, purportedly in the best interests of the citizens and taxpayers of the Township of Chatsworth, without even the most basic documentation.

More on this later …

May 11, 2015 – Obviously, Chatsworth CAO Will Moore is not prepared to be open about discussions with Georgian Bluffs and activities at the Sullivan landfill site that evidently go back to the Memorandum of Understanding signed as part of the Bio-Digester package (February 2011).

Information about the link between the Bio-Digester and landfill was covered generally by my Freedom of Information request in June 2014. However, only one single undated page was provided. Since something about landfill was provided, it is obvious that other information that I now know existed at the time was deliberately left out.

My emailed requests to Mr. Moore for information that would “fill in the blanks” have not even been acknowledged. Therefore, I sent this FOI letter to CAO Moore on Thursday, May 7, 2015. As usual, I sent copies to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and the three Councillors.

May 2, 2015 – I wasn’t able to attend the Council meeting on Wednesday evening, April 29, but I did receive a report about the meeting from one of the faithful citizens of our Township who regularly attends Council meetings. I’m not sure why the discussion at Agenda 9.2 was billed as a “training session” which sounds rather demeaning or condescending to me. The new Councillors, the Council itself and the citizens of Chatsworth do not need TRAINING; rather, we need INFORMATION about what is going on.

Towards that end, I sent yet another email on Friday to CAO Moore. He has never even acknowledged my email requests made February 25 and April 15, never mind actually answering the questions or simply providing the information requested. I think that Mr. Moore hopes that I just go away although he should know by now that that is not going to happen.

Anyhow, here is a copy of my email sent yesterday. Note especially the first paragraph. As usual, I sent copies to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and the three Councillors.

Hello Will,

I heard from Larry that there was quite a bit of discussion at the Council meeting on Wednesday evening about the Sullivan landfill site, including about work by GMBluePlan Engineering (GMBP). From my understanding of Larry’s comments, the work by GMBP in 2014 at the Sullivan site that I asked you about in my February 25, 2015 email was paid for by Georgian Bluffs. Therefore, you must have been aware of this work, if not involved in preparations for it, at the time of my Freedom of Information request in June, 2014. Please be advised that I will be pursuing this with the Province.

I also understand that you will be bringing forward more information about landfill for an upcoming Council meeting. I hereby request that you include the following documents from my February 25, 2015 and April 15, 2015 emailed requests:

1. All documents, notes or minutes prepared by you, addressed to you or copied to you in preparation for, at, or as follow-up from the meeting that referred to in the May 7, 2014 letter from GMBP;
2. All documents including correspondence and reports about all work done in 2012, 2013, 2014 and this year to date by GMBP (or its predecessor company) at the Sullivan site;
3. The covering letter or letters for the two GMBP reports tabled at the April 15, 2015 Council meeting;
4. Appendix B of the Sullivan report tabled at the April 15, 2015 Council meeting; and
5. All documents since related to how costs have been, are being or are planned to be shared between Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs in relation to the “joint landfill site.”

Your anticipated cooperation is appreciated.

Yours truly,
Trevor Falk

April 15, 2015Landfill is on the Agenda for today’s Council meeting. Therefore, I took the opportunity to remind CAO/Clerk Will Moore about some outstanding questions, and also to ask a few more. Here’s my email sent around 6:30 am this morning. I copied the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and the three Councillors.

Good morning Will,

This is further to my February 25, 2015 email (copy below) to which you have never responded. I am reminding you about this today, before the Council meeting that starts at 9:30 am, because it is related to Agenda 11.2 for today’s meeting. For the same reason, I am attaching a copy of the May 7, 2014 letter from GMBluePlan Engineering (GMBP) to the Operations Manager of the Township of Georgian Bluffs.

So that everything is in one place, here are the questions contained in my February 25 email to which you have not replied:

1. The first paragraph of the May 7, 2014 letter to Peter Paquette from GM BluePlan Engineering (attached to my February 18 report) refers to a “recent meeting regarding the joint agreement for a joint municipal landfill site.” The second full paragraph about the Sullivan Landfill Site refers to detailed discussions about previous work by GMBP for the Township of Chatsworth. Was someone from Chatsworth at that meeting? Did either GMBP or Georgian Bluffs request permission to release studies and information to them? What document(s) were provided, if any?

2. At the top of page 3 of the May 7 letter, there is discussion about work at the Sullivan site that is required by Chatsworth for long-term waste management options. Where does that stand? Does Chatsworth have a long-term management plan that compares in any way to the 2009 Gambsy Mannerow report adopted by Georgian Bluffs? What documents were relied upon to produce the single page (about landfill in response to my FOI request) that was not dated? What plans are in place for Area “B?” What is “the agreed cost sharing plan” mentioned at the end of this paragraph? Have there been any discussions or correspondence with either Georgian Bluffs or GMBP about cost sharing subsequent to this letter? Have you received or are you aware of any more recent letter, draft report, plan or schedule prepared by GMBP on this project (10 months has passed since this letter was sent)?

I have reviewed the GMBP reports provided for Agenda 11.2, in particular the second one pertaining to the Sullivan site, and have the following additional questions:

3. These two reports evidently came in one or more cerlox binders. Considering that these reports are the “official” Annual Reports, it strikes me as being unusual that there is no covering letter. Please advise on this, and provide a copy of the covering letter(s) that might somehow have been set aside in assembling the Agenda package for today’s Council meeting.

4. At the end of Section 1.0 of the Sullivan report, there is a reference to correspondence being provided in Appendix B. Please provide a copy of this Appendix.

5. In Section 4.2 and Section 9.1 of the Sullivan report, there are references to Area C. The wording of Section 4.2 is intriguing: “… is currently conducting a Hydrogeological Study in consultation with the Township … .” Just so that it is perfectly clear, is this a reference to the Township of Chatsworth or to the Township of Georgian Bluffs, or both? Is this the work covered by the GANTT chart attached to the May 7, 2014 letter which shows the Hydrogeological Study being completed by December 2014? There must be a contract of some sort between Chatsworth and GMBP for its work including the Hydrogeological Study; please provide a copy.

6. I note that Section 4.2 of the Sullivan report states that “The Design and Operations Report for Area C will follow.” This is not phrased as a recommendation; rather, it implies that GMBP has been authorized to proceed with this work. Please clarify this.

7. Last, and least, it appears that there is a typo towards the end of Section 4.1 that explains that topographic work was completed in October 2014, then goes on to say at the end that topographic work should be done in the fall of 2014. Please confirm that the recommendation is that this work be done in the fall of 2015.

Yours truly,
Trevor

Feb 25, 2015Does Chatsworth have a Landfill Plan?

Yesterday, I received an email from CAO/Clerk Will Moore, providing a copy of the Minutes of the February 2, 2011 Council meeting at which the Bio-Digester Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding were approved, together with copies of these documents. Mr. Moore’s email included the Agenda of the meeting, and he offered to send the entire Council package if I wished to see it. Here is my email reply sent at 9:15 am this morning:

Good morning Will,

Thanks for this. You’re right that I don’t need to see the rest of the package, but thanks for offering.

I expect you won’t be thrilled when you read the rest of this email, and I am truly sorry for that. Although it may be painful and difficult, however, it is necessary for Chatsworth to become more open; significant steps have been taken towards this end, but it is clear there is much more to do.

The first paragraph of the May 7, 2014 letter to Peter Paquette from GM BluePlan Engineering (attached to my February 18 report) refers to a “recent meeting regarding the joint agreement for a joint municipal landfill site.” The second full paragraph about the Sullivan Landfill Site refers to detailed discussions about previous work by GMBP for the Township of Chatsworth. Was someone from Chatsworth at that meeting? Did either GMBP or Georgian Bluffs request permission to release studies and information to them? What document(s) were provided, if any?

At the top of page 3 of the May 7 letter, there is discussion about work at the Sullivan site that is required by Chatsworth for long-term waste management options. Where does that stand? Does Chatsworth have a long-term management plan that compares in any way to the 2009 Gambsy Mannerow report adopted by Georgian Bluffs? What documents were relied upon to produce the single page that was not dated? What plans are in place for Area “B?” What is “the agreed cost sharing plan” mentioned at the end of this paragraph? Have there been any discussions or correspondence with either Georgian Bluffs or GMBP about cost sharing subsequent to this letter? Have you received or are you aware of any more recent letter, draft report, plan or schedule prepared by GMBP on this project (10 months has passed since this letter was sent)?

Given my February 18 report to the Council, I hope that this subject will be on an agenda for an upcoming Council meeting. If you are pulling together information for that purpose, please do not worry about responding to these questions directly at this time; I will be content to first review the information provided to Council. Please advise on this.

Thanks in advance,

Trevor

Feb 18, 2015 – Follow-up email to Will Moore sent this morning, along with a Report to the Chatsworth Council.

Here is what I said in the email (copies to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors):

This is further to my Feb 9 email. Since I didn’t hear back from you immediately, as I had expected, I pursued the matter myself.

My brief (3-page) report to the Council is attached. As I have offered in the past, I would be pleased to appear before the Council to respond to questions.

I see the Bio-digester Study Terms of Reference on the Agenda for this morning’s Council meeting. My new report might raise questions in the mind of the Council that link back to the Bio-digester.

Here are the first and last sections of the report; the middle section provides all of the references (see link, above).

Summary

This report provides information about plans by the Township of Georgian Bluffs to utilize the Sullivan Landfill Site in the Township of Chatsworth.

As inconceivable as it may seem, it appears that Georgian Bluffs is working actively towards the goal of developing a “joint management plan” for landfill but without involvement by the Township of Chatsworth. Georgian Bluffs appears to be relying on the general provisions of the February 2, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding that was signed at the same time as the Bio-Digester Agreement.

In my opinion, what appears to be the present path is not prudent for either party, and especially risky for Chatsworth. It would be a serious mistake to let Georgian Bluffs go any further until the concept is fully fleshed out through an open planning process, culminating in the preparation of a detailed agreement that is mutually beneficial.

Final Comments

The situation is very concerning for at least four reasons.

First and of utmost importance, no information has ever been provided to Chatsworth residents and taxpayers about the February 2, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding and about any “plans” along the lines indicated in the May 7, 2014 letter.

Second, proceeding towards some sort of jointly-developed, operated and managed landfill site without first taking the concept beyond some sort of vague “understanding” is foolhardy; the proverbial devil is always in the details.

Third, surely some sort of jointly-developed, operated and managed landfill ought to also include full consideration of the needs and options from Chatsworth’s perspective.

Fourth, I cannot help but observe that all of the preceding documents pre-date my June 11, 2014 Freedom of Information request. Therefore, I must ask whether the response I received intentionally left out documents pertaining to landfill, and if so, why?

Feb 13, 2015 – Email to Will Moore: Why wasn’t the Gamsby and Mannerow Limited report provided in response to my FOI request?

The Gamsby Mannerow report dated September 4, 2009 deals with the problem or potential problem that Georgian Bluffs has with regarding to landfill space. It isn’t clear yet how or why this was wrapped into the package of agreements about the Bio-Digester, however.

As a first step in trying to figure this out, here is what I asked in an email to Will More on Monday, February 9.

My FOI request dated June 11, 2014 asked for information about landfill: “I am requesting … 6. Documentation pertaining to costs, potential costs and financial risks for the Township of Chatsworth related to provisions in the February 2, 2011 Agreement having to do with landfill sites in Chatsworth used or potentially used by the Township of Georgian Bluffs, together with information about the financial and other benefits or potential benefits to Georgian Bluffs of those provisions in the Agreement.”

Your response to my request included no documents about landfill except a single one-page document (#42) that is undated.

A visitor to my blog sent the attached engineering report to me; as you can see, it was prepared for Georgian Bluffs in 2009. Note the references to the Bio-Digester and Chatsworth in Section 5.3.5 on page 52.

This engineering report fits well within the ambit of my FOI request, so I assume that either: a) you did not know about the study by Georgian Bluffs and this report; or b) that you did know about it but simply forgot to include a copy, or make reference to it, in your response to my FOI request. There may be a more complex explanation, but in any event, I would appreciate hearing from you on this, please.

As of 10:30 am today, I have not had a response from Mr. Moore. Readers may be assured that I will not be as patient in this regard as I was after my June 11 FOI request which Mr. Moore didn’t get around to dealing with for a month. My rationale is that this matter arises out of a FOI request from 8 months ago that apparently was not fully answered; therefore, this isn’t a new FOI request (that has a 30-day time limit).

Feb 9, 2015 – Not that long ago, I thought that there was nothing more to be uncovered about the landfill aspect of the Bio-Digester agreements, but a visitor to this site sent me a copy of a consultants’ report titled Waste Management Plan Township of Georgian Bluffs dated September 4, 2009. Section 5.3.5 of this report (on page 52) explains the link between the Bio-Digester and use by Georgian Bluffs of a landfill site in Chatsworth.

There will be more — MUCH more — on this in due course. Stay tuned.

Feb 1, 2015 – My January 12, 2015 report to the Chatsworth Council provided as much information about the landfill component as I was able to track down. Here is a summary for readers who didn’t know that it was covered in that report. There are links to all supporting documents in the report.

At a Chatsworth Council meeting on June 17, 2009, Motion 155/2009 was passed. According to the minutes of that meeting, this motion states:

“5. Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth agree to finalize an agreement on the construction, invoicing, project management, acceptance, maintenance and operation of the Bio-Digester, including revenue sharing, based on the principle that both Townships share equally in the risk and/or reward from the Bio-Digester Facility.

“6. That the CAO/Clerk Administrators bring back an agreement for execution by the Councils of the Townships.”

On this basis: funding was arranged; contracts were signed; construction was started and essentially completed; bills were paid; and operation of the Bio-Digester began.

The Agreement was brought to the Chatsworth Council table at a meeting on February 2, 2011, by which time the Bio-Digester was reaching full operation. A Memorandum of Understanding regarding landfill was brought to the same meeting. Both of these documents were approved at that meeting by Chatsworth By-Law No. 2011-9.

The Memorandum of Understanding makes Chatsworth’s 50% participation in the Bio-Digester conditional on providing landfill space for Georgian Bluffs:

“NOW THEREFORE be it resolved that in return for 50% ownership of the Bio-Digester facility the Township of Chatsworth will accept the solid waste produced by the Bio-Digester at one of their landfills.

“AND FURTHER the Township of Chatsworth and the Township of Georgian Bluffs agree to enter into a contract, subject to final details, to accept all of part of Georgian Bluffs residual solid waste in the event the Georgian Bluffs landfill reaches capacity or must close due to Ministry of Environment requirements or order such contract to accept Georgian Bluffs solid waste to provide for the following … ”

This is incredible: the “partnership” for the Bio-Digester goes back to 2006, none of the documents from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 or 2010 mention landfill, and now, suddenly, the Bio-Digester deal is contingent on satisfactory arrangements to use Chatsworth landfill sites!

In response to my FOI requests to both townships, no documents were provided pertaining to any meetings or correspondence between the CAO/Clerk Administrators about the Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding. Chatsworth provided just one document (undated) about landfill.

There is no evidence that the Chatsworth Council provided any direction to the CAO/Clerk about an Agreement in addition to the above-noted resolution on June 17, 2009. There is no evidence of any consideration of landfill by the Chatsworth Council either before this resolution or afterwards. Therefore, it is an open question as to how Chatsworth’s partnership on the Bio-Digester that had been agreed in 2006 became conditional five years later on Chatsworth providing landfill space.

There are recent indications that the link to landfill is very important to Georgian Bluffs. I make this statement in light of an exchange between a resident of Georgian Bluffs and Councillor Carol Barfoot at an All Candidates meeting in Shallow Lake on September 26, 2014. In responding to a comment by the resident who noted that the landfill in Hepworth had only four years of life, Councillor Barfoot said something along the lines of “The Agreement with Chatsworth has solved our landfill problems for 30 years.”

If Councillor Barfoot’s interpretation of the importance of the Agreement is correct, I suspect that she might well have added “… and it has solved our problems very cheaply, too.”

This is an aspect of the Agreement that the Chatsworth Council needs to re-visit. As far as I have been able to determine, and consistent with the fact that the decision to build the Bio-Digester was not made by Council, it does not appear that the Council was involved in a meaningful way with the decision to ‘bundle’ the Bio-Digester with landfill. No studies were evidently done on this.

Chatsworth residents and taxpayers have never been informed, except by me, that the arrangements with Georgian Bluffs regarding the Bio-Digester also involved providing landfill space.

October 26, 2014Landfill documentation provided by Chatsworth in response to Freedom of Information request

As described initially on September 28, below, landfill is a key component of the Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding dated February 2, 2011, although residents and taxpayers of Chatsworth were not told this. In response to my Freedom of Information request, Chatsworth provided just one document which you can see here.

One would have thought that responsible representatives of Chatsworth taxpayers would have put a substantial amount of thought into the landfill aspect of the arrangements with Georgian Bluffs. This document certainly doesn’t give me much confidence that that was the case.

Several other Chatsworth residents have expressed concern to me about the landfill aspects of the arrangements with Georgian Bluffs, and are doing some independent research. There will be more posted on this subject in the coming days.

The following information was posted on Sept 28, 2014 with edits on Sept 29

My understanding of the essence of Article 1.4 of the February 2, 2011 Agreement is that it gives Georgian Bluffs access to the Sullivan landfill site in Chatsworth for at least 10 years, and possibly for as long as 25 years.

In exchange, Chatsworth obtained half ownership of the Lagoon Property in Georgian Bluffs where the bio-digester is located. Although no money changed hands, the value put on this exchange transaction was agreed to be $175,000 (half of the agreed value of the Lagoon Property).

Conditions on the exchange are specified in this Agreement and in the Memorandum of Understanding that is also dated February 2, 2011.

As far as I have been able to determine, Chatsworth residents and taxpayers were never informed that the arrangements with Georgian Bluffs regarding the bio-digester also covered landfill. There is certainly no mention of landfill in the joint press release from late 2010 or in articles in the Owen Sound Sun Times around that time or since.

This is yet another demonstration of the approach of Chatsworth Leaders (Mayor Bob Pringle, Deputy Mayor Terry McKay and CAO/Clerk Will Moore) to the whole notion of “transparency.” I intend to pursue the issue about whether the Municipal Act (or other legislation) permits a municipally-owned asset to be sold without bothering to tell the owners who happen to be the residents of Chatsworth.

Even if it’s legal, it certainly isn’t right to have done this, even if they got an unbelievably “good deal” (which, judging from the fiasco of the Sunset Strip subsidies, they probably didn’t).

To the best of my knowledge, the only reference to landfill somehow being connected to the bio-digester was very recent; information about the connection was published in relation to the Peter J. Marshall Award in late August. You can see the reference on the AMO website here. This draws on information contained in the application for the Award submitted by the CAO/Clerk of Georgian Bluffs in April of this year.

Assuming that Chatsworth has lots of “room” at its two landfill sites, the conditions contained in the Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding under which Georgian Bluffs may use the Sullivan site may turn out to be mutually beneficial.

But, if there is not that much “room” remaining in the Chatsworth landfill sites and/or if Georgian Bluffs runs out of room and would face extremely expensive alternatives in the absence of the Sullivan landfill site, it could be that the arrangements are disproportionately beneficial to Georgian Bluffs.

What thought and analyses, if any, did Chatsworth representatives put into the landfill aspect of the bio-digester agreement? Finding an answer to this question was one of the reasons that I filed a Freedom of Information request on June 11, 2014.

I’ll provide more information about the landfill situation when the FOI documents are made available.

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