Peter J. Marshall Award

This page added Sept 25, 2014

The 2014 P. J. Marshall Awards were profiled and presented at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in London on August 17–20, 2014. The AMO website is here.

The AMO’s Call for Submissions states (on page 1) that the objective of the Award is “to showcase instances where Ontario municipalities have implemented and can point to tangible, measurable outcomes from new, more cost effective ways of providing public services and facilities.”

With regard to eligibility (page 2 of the form), “Innovative projects involving partnerships and alternative service delivery will be considered eligible for the award where the entrant can demonstrate measurable outcomes for the municipal government, its taxpayers, and citizens.” The bold portion of this sentence is underlined in the original.

The entry requirements are shown on page 3. The fifth bullet under point 3 states that the submission “… must clearly demonstrate tangible benefits, and provide the measures and performance against the measures related to improved efficiency and effectiveness.” The declaration (page 4) states that the Head of Administration of the municipality must “… certify that the information provided is true and complete.”

In response to my written request, the Executive Director of the AMO provided a copy of the submission that was processed by the office of Georgian Bluffs’ C.A.O. on April 15, 2014. You can see the actual submission here.

The Project Description in the application contains design information – no results from four years of operation, therefore no indication of how the bio-digester stacks up against the original plan.

Under Innovation, the application states that the two townships “… are working together to increase diversion from their respective landfills … .” The Leaders of the Township of Chatsworth have provided no information about any joint project to increase diversion from landfills, but this does not necessarily mean that another joint undertaking doesn’t exist (perhaps they just haven’t gotten around to telling us about it).

No information has ever been provided to Chatsworth residents about the landfill aspect of the February 2, 2011 Agreement. I intend to pursue this when I receive the background documents covered by the Freedom of Information request on June 11, 2014 (see “Freedom of Information” tab).

The section of the application titled Why a Biodigester? contains more references to Georgian Bluffs’ landfill problems. Why am I experiencing a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Chatsworth taxpayers have another surprise in store for them (like the Sunset Strip subsidies) that will do little more than send more of our tax dollars to Georgian Bluffs?

This section also makes reference to spreading raw septage on “farmlands” and asserts that the bio-digester reduces greenhouse gas emissions, contamination and odours. However, it does not provide any specifics (measures and actual performance) as requested in the Call for Submissions.

I have often pointed out to Chatsworth Mayor Bob Pringle that it is misleading to say that untreated septage is spread on “farm fields.” Also, I have asked the Director of Operations for Georgian Bluffs to provide specifics with respect to claimed benefits such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions (see Tab titled “Environmental Benefits and Risks” for information on both of these subjects).

The first paragraph of the section titled Challenges is devoted to fiction (see “Assumptions” tab). There is reference to the initial cost, but no reference to ongoing costs that are running at about triple the original estimates (see Tab titled “Hiding the Costs”).

The only specific quantification contained in the section titled Benefits has to do with revenues from Hydro One. Financing Tools also contains generalities, none of which appear to me to be the “… measures and performance against the measures related to improved efficiency and effectiveness” required by the application form.

The final section of the submission is titled Biodigesters for Municipal Use. It appears to comprise mainly bits and pieces from a few websites about bio-digesters – I cannot see a single word relating specifically to “our” bio-digester.

Given all of the facts about the bio-digester, most of which are only now coming to light, it is hard to see how any objective person would say that the jointly-owned bio-digester meets any reasonable definition of “success.” That may be why the application to the AMO provided so little in the way of tangible, measureable outcomes that I understood they were seeking.

Although there is no reference to it in the application form, the emphasis by the AMO on measurable outcomes is entirely consistent with A Guide to Service Delivery Review which was published by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in August 2004. Having followed Chatsworth’s involvement in the bio-digester project closely for the last two years, it appears to me that our Leaders either did not know about this document, or simply decided to ignore it.

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