Mike’s Column: No joy in Mudville today

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No, no room for jokes, attempted jokes or frivolity.

The stakes are too high, sentiment is too hot and nerves are too frayed.

There is also absolutely no joy in writing about a topic I have covered intensely for three years, all the while trying to get townsfolk to pay attention to the grave direction this confounded biodigester was headed from the virtual outset.

And make no mistake, the problems started with the very application to get the then-proposed facility on the rails. A town-controlled location was needed to make the application eligible and the former Calder School – where the new fire station on Mountain Street is now located – was used. There was never any intention of putting the biodigester there. That was the first charade.

From there issues with input material contracts, storage of materials on site, the lack of a site design, ongoing issues of non-compliance with Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change guidelines, construction cost overruns, management problems and on and on and on.

The problems were endless and have not stopped cropping up to this day. Yet, until today, not a single one was ever mentioned or acknowledged. When questions were put to hydro/council officials accusations of it all being made up flew.

Yep, you got it. It was all “fake news”.

Well guess what, Grimsby had fake councillors.

Dave Kadwell gets a ton of credit, deservedly so, but it is important to also give credit to Joanne Johnston. She stepped up on several occasions and got (figuratively) rapped on the nose with a rolled up newspaper when she attempted to get answers or any level of accountability at all.

She was not as tough as Kadwell to stick it out and be a repeat offender – it seemed aldermen were dubbed offenders by the “in” clique if you asked any pointed questions – and I don’t fault her for that. She did her best and she tried. I have a lot of time for that.

The others?

If you can be treasonous to a municipality, the other members of council fill that bill in spades.

Never a question or even a raised eyebrow when wave after wave of issues arose.

Not one time were the interests of the taxpaying public defended by those who were elected to do so.

It was an ongoing shameful display, disgusting, quite honestly.

The state of affairs is so paralyzingly dark the near-capacity gallery was almost speechless Monday night.

About 80 or so towns folk filed into the lobby during the closed session which immediately followed Delight Davoli’s presentation.

I talked to upwards of a dozen people, some I know, some I don’t.

All were shockingly calm in their comments but a couple of terms repeatedly popped up. Betrayal, gutted and violated; these terms popped up amidst the comments three times or more.

Behind that came a complete lack of understanding as to how people they know, people who held an important position in the community, people they trusted could have had such reckless disregard for taxpayers of Grimsby.

Nobody, except the former mayor, past GEI and Holdco2 board of director members may ever know unless they step up and explain their actions or lack of same to the community.

It sure would be good to see some of those people at next Monday’s council meeting to explain how a project initially slated to cost $3.5 at start-up ended up going $15 million deep and losing more than $1 million per year on the operations side of the ball.

Will it happen?

Of course not.

These past board members used every trick in the book, cannibalized the Town’s other hydro assets by floating “loans” into the money-losing biodigester just to keep from having to go hat-in-hand to council to ask for more money. They also gave away hydro’s second biggest asset in NRBN just to feed the beast – $9 million up in smoke.

No, folks, no joy in Mudville today and it will be a long time before you see any. Council’s mismanagement on a host of fronts left major financial issues for the new council even if hydro was fully hunky dory.

Throw $15 million in
needless debt in the mix and you have a cash-strapped community with a need for major cuts and a huge tax increase bearing down on the community like a GO train steaming down the rail tracks.

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