NewsNow Niagara e-edition: November 1 2018  – View Interactive PDF

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Mike’s rant: Fundamental hydro questions abound

Yikes!

I had thought of many smart butt leads for this week’s offering as I sat at Grimsby’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting on Monday
evening.

But I don’t want the straight up facts of what is materializing to get mixed in with hyperbole, so let’s just stick with yikes!
Where do I start?

The fact that Grimsby council’s track record on any major project is horrid at best should make anyone look at anything painted as a housekeeping activity with a jaundiced eye.

Then one has the oh-so-typical rolling out of something declared “tidying up” in the dead of summer. Anyone who has been around the block knows, if you want something you’d rather not have a lot of light shone on roll through a council, early August is the time to do it.

Those paying attention are either catching up from vacation time, on vacation, or getting work done to be ready to go on vacation. Long story short, chances of any reaction is small.

To change things up, I will offer my conclusion first. What I don’t get is the motivation behind all this. I have my suspicions, but they are little more than that….at this point.

Simply, the length hydro officials are going to clear up a seven-year-old wording “mistake” in a sale agreement defies logic.

Aside from the merits of any proposed change, just set the proposal aside for a moment, why would hydro, town council or anyone with a stake in the company – meaning all taxpayers – want to change the wording?

Fortis must have signed the deal as is, right?

The sale agreement is seven years old. So when Ald. Kadwell asked repeatedly at Monday’s committee meeting, “why now?” I wanted them all to say, “why do it at all?”

The new structure will effectively remove potential liabilities – based on where Mayor Bob Bentley said certain assets would be housed in the corporate structure – namely the biodigester and co-gen units.

Fortis bought 10 per cent of the company. Who cares what their “intent” was, as the mayor noted.

Any company has assets and liabilities.

I am just picturing someone calling up Tim Hortons (or any big company) and saying, “We’d like to buy 10 per cent of your operation please, but just the money making properties. Please remove all the risky ones.”

What confounds is seven years has passed since the deal and it is those who are supposed to be representing the interests of the Town driving the bus on this one. Just what direction they driving the bus is the one of the remaining questions.

Smell test? Foul.

On paper, it really looks like a major structural realignment to allow for a cleaner sale of the utility to Fortis (who would have first right of refusal based on the sale agreement) or another suitor.

I always thought Grimsby should never sell the hydro money machine, but all that changed last year. This thing needs to be sold, and fast, but at a proper valuation not the ridiculously low value for which the initial 10 per cent was sold. Before any of the more recent shenanigans, that sale price should have been a five-alarm warning of things to come.

To the matter at hand, we have a mayor and board members who could not explain to the shareholders (council) around the table how the $12.9 value was placed on the shares in question. Any human not oxygen deprived would never agree to the sale, restructure, shift, whatever you want to call it, of any company if such a fundamental aspect could not be explained in detail.

It is equally shocking that one black-balled alderman was the only one pressing the matter. This is your elected officials at work, people of Grimsby!

There are other points made in Letters to The Editor which can expand on other issues, but taxpayers better wake up before their cash cow gets fermented and spit out by the biodigester while the mayor trades in his chain of office for the keys to the Titanic.

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