September 15, 2015 – Yesterday, Chatsworth resident Ray Hunt sent this email to the Mayor and Council. I post it here with Mr. Hunt’s permission.
I see where Trevor Falk has suggested again that it is time to give the five year’s notice on the termination of the Biodigester agreement. I agree whole heartedly. As a matter of fact, I said so to Mayor Pringle back in February of this year. He disagreed stating that we must be “good neighbors”. Well good neighbors don’t abuse their neighbors. Maybe at the start of this Biodigester agreement Council saw dollar signs dancing in front of their eyes, but where are those dollars going now? Chatsworth is being abused.
OK, we made a very bad deal! But we did not sign on to the fact that we must make good on our bad deal no matter what. There is an out that must be used. It is clear that Georgian Bluffs will hold us to the agreement despite it’s obvious unfairness. Are we Ok with that? Are they good neighbors?
It is time to take the high ground. Get out! Look after the Chatsworth ratepayers.
September 13, 2015 – The following is my report on the Joint Board meeting held on Friday, September 11th:
I arrived a couple of minutes after the posted 8:00 am start time. By then, the Joint Board had already approved the draft minutes of the June 25 and August 24 meetings (I’ll come back to the June 25 minutes at the end of this report).
SusGlobal Proposal (Agenda 6.1)
The Agenda was evidently re-ordered to discuss the evaluation of the SusGlobal Energy RFP before other matters. SusGlobal was represented by Mr. Ross Slaughter, P. Eng., who was in the public gallery. He had been with SusGlobal President Mr. G. Hamaliuk at the August 24 meeting.
The Georgian Bluffs Secretary opened discussion of the evaluation report that had been prepared by Conestogo-Rovers (the engineering consulting firm retained by the Board to assist in this process) and Georgian Bluffs/Chatsworth staff. The report had been included in the advance package and so is a public document, although the proposal by SusGlobal has not yet been made public.
The GB Secretary stated that the SusGlobal proposal was awarded a “technical” score of 26 points out of a total possible score of 50. This was significantly less than the 37.5 points that had been established as the threshold for next steps such as analysis of the financial aspects.
In the discussion over the next 40 minutes or so, Mr. Slaughter took issue with the evaluation in general, and especially with the fact that SusGlobal was not afforded an opportunity to meet with the committee that did the technical evaluation. He said that SusGlobal preferred a meeting to the alternative of “sending a 10-page letter.”
Therefore, he requested a meeting before the Board makes its final decision.
I am not sure who stated that the situation seemed to be “the opinion of one engineer versus the opinion of another engineer.” However, Mr. Slaughter picked up on this, and said it was possible that the technical evaluation by Conestogo-Rovers had been influenced by “politics” relating to its other interests and related work.
He also said that he would like to see the scoring system; this request was not explicitly denied at the meeting, but no information in this regard was provided at the meeting.
The Board Chair, Georgian Bluffs Mayor Barfoot, made passing reference to two other expressions of interest and one other proposal that had arrived after the deadline. The GB Secretary advised that these documents had been shredded without being opened. Mr. Slaughter said he didn’t know that there were other companies interested, and said he would be interested in knowing their names (this request was denied by the Chair).
The Chair stated that he favoured the option of granting Mr. Slaughter’s request for a meeting before the Board makes a decision. Chatsworth Mayor Pringle said that the technical score wasn’t high enough to warrant further discussion, but that he would be OK with a meeting if that is what the Chair prefers. The GB Secretary sought clarification about what information would be provided at such a meeting; perhaps it is because members of the public are not privy to all of the documents, but I could make no sense of the Chair’s response to this request if, indeed, it was a response.
Chatsworth Deputy Mayor Mackey stated that he was of the opinion that acceding to the request for a meeting at this stage would effectively be changing the rules that had been established at the outset.
In the end, the Board voted in support of Mr. Slaughter’s request for a meeting. From where I was sitting, Deputy Mayor Mackey did not appear to vote in favour (nor did I see that he voted against).
In response to a concern expressed later in the meeting by Georgian Bluffs resident Calvin Confer and to a question that I asked shortly after that, the Chair stated that the meeting was for discussion of nothing more than the technical aspects of the proposal as submitted. SusGlobal would not be permitted to make any changes but rather simply provide explanations, presumably aimed at helping Conestogo-Rovers “improve” their understanding and increase the technical score. The Chair also stated that there would be no discussion of the separate management-related evaluation(s) that Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth staff had evidently prepared.
Chatsworth Councillor Shawn Greig (who attended the meeting with fellow Councillor Brian Gamble) rose to speak as a member of the public. He expressed concern about going any further with a proposal that had been judged by Conestogo-Rovers as being technically deficient without looking at other options.
Budget for 2015 (Agenda 9.1)
The draft budget tabled at the meeting was the one that the Chatsworth Council had previously rejected, and that the Georgian Bluffs representatives had refused to reconsider (see my report on the June 25th joint meeting). Chatsworth Mayor Pringle noted that we are now 2/3 of the way through the year and that the parties need to figure out a way forward. He requested that the Agenda item be deferred.
Deputy Mayor Mackey added that he was hopeful that the subsidy provisions could be renegotiated as “good partners.” After a brief discussion, the item was deferred.
I will be making a submission to the Chatsworth Council about the option of Arbitration which has no hope whatsoever of succeeding. In my experience, arbitration is for purposes such as resolving a dispute about interpretation in the case of ambiguity, or perhaps to deal with new circumstances that have arisen since the original negotiation.
In this case, the Agreement is explicit. The subsidized tipping fee for the Sunset Strip is specifically discussed (“… these subsidized rates …”) and agreed as being under the sole control of the Council of Georgian Bluffs for as long as desired. The transportation costs between the Sunset Strip and the Bio-Digester are specifically identified as part of the operating budget of the bio-digester. The Agreement explicitly made Chatsworth equally responsible with Georgian Bluffs for all costs to treat sewage and septage from the Sunset Strip; this is crystal clear.
The problem is that during the negotiations with Georgian Bluffs in late 2010, then Deputy Mayor Pringle and CAO Will Moore did not think these provisions through. In other words, they did not perform what is referred to as “due diligence.”
The only path towards a solution of this problem is to give formal notice to Georgian Bluffs that Chatsworth intends to terminate the Agreement in 5 (five!!!!!) years (more lack of due diligence).
Minutes of the Joint Board meeting on June 25, 2015 (Agenda 3)
In the question period at the meeting on Friday, I pointed out that the minutes of the June 25, 2015 meeting did not provide a meaningful record of the discussion about the lagoon.
The paragraph that I questioned appears near the end of Agenda item 4.1 of the June 25th minutes: “Deputy Mayor Mackey asked Troy, does the Certificate of Approval allow for the Sunset Strip material to go into the lagoon. Troy noted only sewage can go into the lagoon.”
The discussion on June 25th, and the thrust of Deputy Mayor Mackey’s question, had to do with the intake capacity of the lagoon in the event that a third party operator had sources of materials that would generate more revenue (through tipping fees and electricity production) than sewage and septage.
This matter had been discussed with the representative of Conestogo-Rovers at the Chatsworth Council meeting on June 24, 2015 at which he stated that the lagoon had the physical capacity and the necessary MOE approvals to take all of the septage and sewage generated in the two townships, including from the Sunset Strip (mainly “grey water”). The Certificate of Approval apparently sets a limit of 57.5 cubic metres per day which I understand is more than the total generated at present.
At the end of the meeting on Friday, the Board agreed to amend the minutes to better reflect the discussion at the June 25 meeting.
For posterity, I have posted my report on this meeting. Please click here.
Sept 10, 2015 – Here is the Agenda with links to supporting documents. Note that the meeting is at the Georgian Bluffs office, and starts at 8:00 am.
There are two items of special interest on the Agenda. The first is Agenda 6.1 which is the staff report that evaluates the proposal from SusGlobal Energy to operate the bio-digester. Conestogo-Rovers assisted in this evaluation that shows the SusGlobal proposal to have fallen short in a number of areas. Presumably this will mean that the other proposal(s) or expression(s) of interest mentioned by Mayor Barfoot towards the end of the August 24th meeting will be looked at next.
The second item of special interest is the 2015 Budget (Unfinished Business 9.1). At the meeting on June 25, 2015, a motion that had its origin with the previous Chatsworth Council but that was put forward by the present Chatsworth Council was defeated in a tie vote. This motion would have required Georgian Bluffs to take on full responsibility for sewage and septage from the Sunset Strip; Georgian Bluffs obviously prefers Chatsworth to continue footing half of the bills. So … the 2015 budget brought back for consideration at Agenda 9.1 of this meeting incorporates the subsidies.
Chatsworth Mayor Pringle and CAO/Clerk Moore were at the negotiating table for Chatsworth when the original Agreement was negotiated. So it will be interesting to see how Mayor Pringle handles this tomorrow. He was obviously very uncomfortable at the June 25 meeting, and tried to put the issue on the sidelines; fortunately Chatsworth Deputy Mayor Mackey didn’t let him do that.
I don’t know how Mayor Pringle can go against the position taken by the Chatsworth Council, but if he does and the motion passes (assuming that Deputy Mayor Mackey would oppose it), I would hope that the Chatsworth Council would then vote “no” when it is inevitably brought back for approval. Happily, the days of the Chatsworth Council being a “rubber stamp” for shipping money over to Georgian Bluffs (and other matters) are long gone.
In the circumstances, I don’t see any alternative but for Chatsworth to give notice of terminating the Agreement. This issue will have to be dealt with whether or not the townships will find another option through a new RFP or through some other process.
On this coming weekend, I will do my best to prepare and post a report on tomorrow’s meeting.
September 10, 2015 (11:00 am)