Sunset Strip Subsidies

June 10, 2015 – The following email was sent by Chatsworth resident Ray Hunt to the Mayor on June 9, 2015. I have Mr. Hunt’s permission to post his email.

Mayor Pringle, Deputy Mayor Mackey, Councillor Gamble, Councillor Greig, Councillor Thompson & CAO Moore

At the Chatsworth Council meeting on Dec 18/2013, a motion (446-2013) was made, seconded and carried by recorded vote (in favour – Gamble, Mackey, McKay, Vlielander, opposed – Pringle) for Chatsworth to end the subsidizing of the Sunset Strip tipping fees and transportation costs and to have a joint meeting of both Councils to discuss this resolution. This resulted in nothing more than one joint meeting (held 5 months after, on May 28/14).

At the May 28/14 meeting the above was on the agenda. But if you review the minutes you will find that the subsidized tipping fees did not come up until Trevor Falk questioned it. When questioned by Mr. Falk on when it would be addressed, “Mayor Barfoot and Mayor Pringle said no decisions will be made tonight. Staff from both councils will be reviewing the information provided by staff and then making a recommendation to their respective councils”. When was this discussed and agreed to? And please point out to me when this review and recommendation took place. It is not in any minutes.

This is from the Georgian Bluffs minutes of a meeting held on June 18/14, a mere twenty days later: “Morrison also said the request from Chatsworth to no longer subsidize tipping fees and transportation costs for septage from the Sunset Strip is now off the table for discussion.” There were two Chatsworth Council meetings before June 18/14. One on June 4/14 & one on June 11/14. This was not discussed in those meetings. Also, there were no closed meetings. So if Morrison’s statement is correct, where did Chatsworth’s agreement to take this matter off the table come from? Please tell me who or whom made this decision.

At the Chatsworth Council meeting on March 4/15, a motion (103-2015) was made, seconded and carried for Chatsworth to end the subsidizing of the Sunset Strip’s tipping fees and transportation costs.

This motion was on the BioGRID Joint Board Agenda of March 27/15 as 5. Correspondence 2) Township of Chatsworth BioDigester amendment. I believe all but one on this mailing was in attendance. Mysteriously this item was deferred without discussion or vote.

At the BioGRID Joint Board meeting on May 15/15, the minutes of the March 27/15 BioGrid meeting were included for approval. These minutes included nothing on 5. Correspondence 2) Township of Chatsworth BioDigester amendment from March 27/15 – deferred. I do not know if this was corrected by either of the Chatsworth representatives but in asking Mr. Falk, who was in attendance, he had no recollection of anyone questioning this omission. But most importantly, it was not included on the May 15/15 agenda under “Unfinished Business”.

Has anyone noticed that we are continually being ignored or deferred? Does anyone know that an agenda item cannot be just deferred without a vote? I cannot find any vote on any deferral in the minutes.

It is also my understanding that Deputy Mayor Mackey did raise this issue at the May 15/15 meeting. This has not been included in the minutes but was reported by Mr. Falk. As the matter was allowed to be raised by the Chair, it was now open for discussion and in fact the Chair made a comment. The response from the Georgian Bluffs’ side was that one representative felt that Chatsworth was not subsidizing the Sunset Strip while the other representative thought it should be discussed by Georgian Bluffs Council. It was deferred again. Again, no vote. This is quite remarkable. If the two representatives from one side want something already tabled to be discussed, it will be discussed and voted on or go to an arbitrator. Unlike parliamentary procedure, a tie vote is not a defeat. By the Biodigester agreement it then goes to an arbitrator. One side cannot dictate to the other unless the other side allows it.

It should also be noted that this deferred matter was neither on Georgian Bluffs May 20/15 agenda & minutes nor June 3/15 agenda. So the supposed discussion by Georgian Bluffs Council rings hollow to date.

So now it is over three months since the Chatsworth’s current motion to end the subsidies and a meaningful discussion has yet to take place. May I remind you that three members of the current Council were involved with entering into this bad Biodigester agreement. And I am not just speaking of the Sunset Strip subsidies. There is still that part of the agreement that has Chatsworth residents paying one-third more in tippage fees than Georgian Bluffs to use the Sullivan landfill site. The majority of the current Chatsworth Council voted to end the subsidies on March 4/15. Our two representatives should be working hard to make it happen and supporting the current Council’s motion 103-2015. Are they? Constant deferrals should be unacceptable. It must be on the table, discussed and voted on.

May I suggest the following for your consideration.

Council should send back the minutes of March 27/15 for correction if it has not been done so already. Further, our representatives should make sure it is on the Unfinished Business agenda at every meeting. If our two representatives vote to have it on the agenda, it will either be on the agenda or go to an arbitrator as per the agreement.

After two more meetings maximum, our representatives should force a vote on the issue. A tie vote will allow you to proceed to arbitration. Even though Chatsworth is holding bad cards, the hand must be played.

Any vote on this issue should be a recorded vote. I would sure like a clearer picture of what is going on.

Comments on meeting procedures are not my opinion. They can be found in Robert’s Rules.

Regards,
Ray Hunt

February 23, 2015 – My digging into the landfill issue last week required me to review minutes from meetings of the Georgian Bluffs Council and Environmental Committee. I was doing that because I found out that CAO/Clerk Will Moore had not provided some information about landfill in response to my Freedom of Information request, even though I specifically asked.

While reviewing the Georgian Bluffs minutes, I made note of discussions related to the Bio-Digester. That, in turn, resulted in the following email to Chatsworth Clerk/CAO Will Moore today at about 1:30 pm, after I learned that Georgian Bluffs Council was apparently told eight months ago that Chatsworth will not pursue the matter of subsidies for the Sunset Strip.

Good afternoon Will,

As you know, my recent review of the minutes of meetings held by the Council of Georgian Bluffs and its Environmental Committee focused on landfill-related matters. At the same time, however, I made note of discussions related to the Bio-Digester.

By way of background for new Councillors Greig and Thompson, the following motion was passed by the Chatsworth Council in a recorded vote on December 18, 2013:

Motíon 446/2013 – Moved by Scott Mackey / Seconded by Brían Gamble

Whereas the Township of Chatsworth and the Township of Georgian Bluffs were equal partners in developing, funding and building an Anaerobic Bio-digester and have been equal partners in its operation since early 2011,

And Whereas, the Township of Chatsworth and the Township of Georgian Bluffs entered into agreements on February 2, 2011 and on September 5, 2012,

And Whereas, under section 5.9 of the February 2, 2011 agreement the tipping fees at the Bio-digester for existing businesses on the Sunset Strip are subsidized for as long as the Township of Georgian Bluffs considers appropriate,

And Whereas, the method of subsidization effectively results in the Township of Chatsworth making exactly the same contribution towards the reduced rates as the Township of Georgian Bluffs,

And Whereas, section 5.4 schedule c of the February 2, 2011 agreement requires the Township of Chatsworth to pay for half of the transportation costs of septic/sewage from the Sunset Strip to the Biodigester,

And Whereas, the overall effect of section 5.4 and section 5.9 of the February 2, 2011 agreement is to make the Township of Chatsworth equally responsible with the Township of Georgian Bluffs for costs associated with septage/sewage for certain businesses on the Sunset Strip,

And Whereas, there are other ways for the Township of Georgian Bluffs to subsidize tipping fees and transportation costs for the Sunset Strip that would not require any financial contribution from the Township of Chatsworth,

And Whereas, the Sunset Strip is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Township of Georgian Bluffs,

And Whereas, the Township of Chatsworth does not receive any tax revenue from the Sunset Strip.

Now therefore be it resolved that the Council of the Township of Chatsworth will no longer wish to subsidize tipping fees and the transportation costs of septage from the Sunset Strip,

And Further that Council request a joint meeting with the Council of Georgian Bluffs to discuss this resolution. Carried.

Recorded Vote:
Brian Gamble – Yea
Scott Mackey – Yea
Terry McKay – Yea
Bob Pringle – No
Cornelius Vlielander – Yea

It took five (5) months to hold a joint meeting. In my recent review of Georgian Bluffs Council minutes, I came across the minutes of the Joint May 28, 2014 meeting, copy attached. Note that even though these minutes were approved by the Chatsworth Council on June 4, 2014, they are not on the Chatsworth website.

At the top of page 6 of the May 28 minutes, you will note the following:

Trevor Falk of Chatsworth Township asked … What is the plan coming out of this meeting if anything to address the subsidized tipping fees for the Sunset Strip Businesses? Mayor Barfoot and Mayor Pringle said no decisions will be made tonight. Staff from both councils will be reviewing the information provided by staff and then making a recommendation to their respective councils.

The June 4, 2014 Chatsworth Council minutes contain no record of any discussion or decision about the Bio-Digesterr.

The minutes of the June 11 Chatsworth Council meeting state: Different scenarios were presented showing the operating cost and capital cost of the BioDigester. Council will be discussing the BioDigester further at the next meeting.

The minutes of the June 18, 2014 Chatsworth Council meeting contain Motion 196/2014:

Moved by: Brian Gamble
Seconded by: Cornelius Vlielander

Be it Resolved that the Council of the Township of Chatsworth recommend that the BioDigester Committee drop the tipping fees at the BioDigester and collect the operating deficit based on the assessment of the municipalities.

And further that the Veolia contract be renegotiated to use our own licensed operator.

Note that Councillor Gamble’s motion did not mention the subsidies of the Sunset Strip businesses. I attended that meeting, and understood the proposed change to assessment-based financing as a way of reducing Chatsworth’s responsibility for sewage from the Sunset Strip to about one-third from one-half (and thereby reducing costs), but this does not make the issue of subsidies go away. The only way to do this is to charge the Sunset Strip businesses just like everybody else, after which Georgian Bluffs would reimburse these businesses to whatever extent they deem appropriate.

Georgian Bluffs held a Council meeting later on that same day. The minutes of their June 18, 2014 meeting state:

11. Unfinished Business: Bio-digester Agreement with the Township of Chatsworth

Treasurer Morrison said that Chatsworth Council had met today and passed a resolution recommending that we drop the tipping fees at the Bio-digester and look at changing the operating costs based on assessment and that the capital costs would be on a 50-50 basis. If we were to implement three phase power this would have an effect on Chatsworth.

Morrison said if we went to an assessment basis we would be paying 67% of the operating costs and Chatsworth would be paying 33% of the operating costs because we have a higher assessment. Morrison also said the request from Chatsworth to no longer subsidize tipping fees and transportation costs for septage from the Sunset Strip is now off the table for discussion (my emphasis).

Treasurer Morrison said that a budget for 2014 has not yet being adopted by the Joint Bio-digester Board. However, both Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs have allocated funding for the Bio-digester in their 2014 budgets.

Council had a discussion on dropping the tipping fees and putting the operating costs for the bio-digester into the general budget. In this scenario if the Township passed a mandatory septage by-law, the Sunset Strip Businesses and other property owners would only pay for the transportation costs to take their septage to the Bio-digester.

Motion Number 145-2014
Moved by: Deputy Mayor Burley
Seconded by: Councillor Thompson

That the Council of the Township of Georgian Bluffs asks the Township of Chatsworth for clarification on their motion passed at their Council meeting on June 18th regarding the Bio-digester on the following point: What do they mean by using our own licensed operator (Are they referring to Chatsworth’s Operator or Georgian Bluffs Operator). Are they prepared to re-negotiate our current contract with Veolia Water. And further is the Township of Chatsworth prepared to enact a mandatory septage by-law in their municipality to make it mandatory for all septage from septic tanks being disposed of at the Bio-digester. Carried

I was astonished when I read the “subsidies are off the table” statement (in bold) attributed to Treasurer Morrison at the Georgian Bluffs Council meeting. Councillor Gamble’s motion was aimed at reducing Chatsworth’s responsibility from 50% to 33% as an interim measure because the Chatsworth Council was not, at that time, prepared to give notice of termination of the Agreement.

As you know, my February 1, 2015 report to the Council (copy attached for your present convenience) provided figures for the actual subsidies by Chatsworth in 2012 and 2013: $82,580 and $88,795, respectively, for an average of about $85,700 per year. I will do a similar calculation for 2014 when the final volumes are made available.

All of the preceding is background for these questions:

1. What discussion, emails or other correspondence took place after the Chatsworth Council meeting on June 18 by which Georgian Bluffs was apparently advised that Chatsworth Council Motion 446/2013 was “off the table?”

2. What views does the present Council have about Chatsworth continuing to subsidize the businesses on the Sunset Strip?

Yours truly,

Trevor

January 5, 2015: Exchange of email with CAO/Clerk Will Moore about subsidies to the Sunset Strip

By way of background, I observed an interesting exchange between Chatsworth Deputy Mayor Scott Mackey and Georgian Bluffs Mayor Alan Barfoot at the Bio-Digester Management Board meeting on December 19. Towards the end of the meeting, there was a discussion about the need for another meeting in the near future to deal with the consequences of not having approved a budget for the Bio-Digester in 2014. In his brief remarks, Deputy Mayor Mackey mentioned “Sunset Strip subsidies” which prompted an immediate, sharp retort from Mayor Barfoot to the effect that Chatsworth Council had been provided with an assessment “signed off by two staff members” that there were no subsidies and that receiving septage from Sunset Strip businesses at the Bio-Digester had created a “profit” of $20,000.

At the point towards the end of the meeting when people are permitted to speak or ask questions, I asked CAO/Clerk Moore to provide me with a copy of the assessment about subsidies to which Mayor Barfoot had referred. Even though Mr. Moore said that he would do so, I thought it would be a good idea send a reminder by email and thereby leave a written record of my request.

Mr. Moore responded today. For the record, here are copies of what we each said.

Excerpt from my email at 12:19 pm on Dec 19 addressed to Mr. Moore:

“At the meeting today, you said you would provide me with a copy of the report that Mayor Barfoot referred to this morning that was evidently prepared by Chatsworth staff to address the issue of subsidies. I assume this was prepared sometime after I made the Agreement between Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs public and subsequently claimed that Chatsworth was subsidizing the businesses on the Sunset Strip and/or the Municipality of Georgian Bluffs.”

Excerpt from Mr. Moore’s email sent at 12:35 on Jan 5:

“The information that was provided to Council regarding the Sunset strip is attached. For 2013 there was a net revenue of $20,543.66. I am aware that you will argue that there are cost to process.” The 3-page attachment to Mr. Moore’s email contained figures produced by the Treasurer of Georgian Bluffs on July 14, 2014 showing final figures for 2013 (click here to see it); the two lines highlighted in orange by Mr. Moore contain the figures used to arrive at the “net revenue” of $20,543.66.

Excerpt from my email to Mr. Moore sent at 4:08 pm on Jan 5:

“… further to the attachment you provided, I’d like to briefly follow-up on the view held by some people, notably Georgian Bluffs, that the Bio-Digester tipping fees of $66,029.57 (paid in 2013 by businesses on the Sunset Strip) minus the 2013 trucking costs of $45,485.91 (shared by the two townships) produced “net revenue” of $20,543.66 in that year.

“From the attachment to your email, I see that total Bio-Digester expenses in 2013 were $568,291.21, so subtracting out the trucking costs (above) leaves $522,805.30. If there are no costs attributable to septage from the Sunset Strip, then it follows that the $522,805.30 must have been incurred as a result of other septage treated at the Bio-Digester in 2013 (everything but the Sunset Strip businesses).

“The staff presentation made to the Joint Council Meeting on May 28, 2014 stated that the Bio-Digester processed 1,786,906 gallons in 2013 and that 96% of this (or 1,715,430 gallons) was from the Sunset Strip. Therefore, the Bio-Digester must have processed 71,476 gallons of septage from Chatsworth, Georgian Bluffs and other sources combined (there are 220 Imperial gallons in one cubic metre, so this equates to 325 cubic metres) at a cost of $1,608 per cubic metre. Note: I made an arithmetic mistake in my original email which contained a much higher cost per cubic metre. I corrected the mistake by email shortly after 6:00 pm.

“Frankly, I cannot imagine how anyone with any sort of financial or economic training could even state this position while keeping a straight face. If this remains the position of Georgian Bluffs, then in my view there is an open and shut case for Chatsworth to immediately give notice to terminate the Agreement …”

In summary, Georgian Bluffs claims that in 2013 about 7,800 cubic metres of septage from the Sunset Strip was put through the Bio-Digester at $8.05 per cubic metre (the subsidized rate), and that Chatsworth residents should be really happy because this created a “profit” of more than $20,000. Following this “logic,” the rest of the septage processed in 2013, all 325 cubic metres of it, was obviously the really tough stuff to handle because it cost $522,805 to process which is an average of more than $1,608 per cubic metre.

For interest, if the cost of $568,300 for operating the Bio-Digester in 2013 is apportioned equally over each cubic metre processed (total volume of 7,800 + 325 = 8,135 cubic metres), the average cost was $69.86 per cubic metre. For septage from the Sunset Strip, the businesses paid $8.05 of this. The Agreement requires that the balance of $61.81 per cubic metre be absorbed by Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth in equal shares (for 2013, this would be about $30.90 per cubic metre for each township). For 7,800 cubic metres from the Sunset Strip, this works out to a contribution by Chatsworth taxpayers of $241,020.

September 18, 2014

At my first meeting about the bio-digester with Mayor Bob Pringle and CAO/Clerk Will Moore around March 1, 2013, Mayor Pringle denied that Chatsworth is subsidizing the Sunset Strip. CAO/Clerk Moore said, and Mayor Pringle agreed, that the wording in Article 5.9 of the Agreement was merely “unfortunate.”

I continued to press on this issue, the result of which was a special meeting of Chatsworth Council on October 23, 2013. The minutes of that meeting refer to the presentation that I made that is said to be attached (but it isn’t). Presumably people who read these minutes could obtain a copy by request. The other presenters did not table any documents.

The presentation I made is here. My conclusion (on the final page) is that each of Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth bears costs of about $100,000 per year by paying for the transportation of septage from the Sunset Strip to the bio-digester, and through the reduced tipping fees (which are about 1/3 of the tipping fees normally charged).

The fact that Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs are equally responsible for Sunset Strip septage is far worse for Chatsworth than it appears. The reason for this is that we have fewer residential and notably fewer industrial/commercial taxpayers than Georgian Bluffs. Therefore, every residential taxpayer in Chatsworth is contributing more to the costs of Sunset Strip septage than comparable residential taxpayers in Georgian Bluffs.

In a recorded vote on December 18, 2013, Chatsworth Council passed a motion to stop subsidizing transportation and tipping fees for Sunset Strip septage. The minutes of that meeting state that the Deputy Mayor and all of the Councilors voted to stop the subsidies; Mayor Pringle voted against the motion.

To the best of my knowledge, no changes have been made that would reduce or eliminate the subsidies.

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