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Collingwood votes to bring water and wastewater under town management, dissolves CPUSB

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In Collingwood
Jun 23rd, 2015
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By Paul Brian, The Enterprise-Bulletin

The Collingwood Public Utilities Services Board (CPUSB) is no more, following a close 5-3 vote Monday night.

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson, Coun. Kathy Jeffery, Coun. Deb Doherty, Coun. Cam Ecclestone and Coun. Bob Madigan voted in favour of dissolving the CPUSB and bringing water and wastewater under town management while Coun. Mike Edwards, Coun. Kevin Lloyd and Mayor Sandra Cooper voted against the resolution.

Coun. Tim Fryer recused himself from the proceedings, saying he had a pecuniary conflict of interest with regard to the CPUSB, which he serves on. Cooper also serves on the CPUSB and receives a stipend like Fryer, but did not declare any conflict.

Speaking to the E-B June 23, Cooper said in her opinion taking part in the vote was appropriate.

“He (Fryer) may have had whatever reasons of his own that I’m not aware of. He did just let me know right before the council meeting that he would be stepping away, and I was in a different opinion and I spoke to someone that would (have) some good advice and thinking it through,” she said, adding it is comparable to service the Police Services Board. “I was appointed by the striking committee to represent council at the board (CPUSB),” she added.

The CPUSB is made up of Mayor Sandra Cooper, Coun. Tim Fryer, CAO John Brown, Doug Garbutt and Terry Hockley.

Derek Ali of BMA Management Consulting Inc. presented a report prior to the vote in which he outlined expected savings of just over $700,000 per year with adoption of the recommendations.

Noting that the external facilities are in “good condition,” Ali nonetheless outlined what BMA concluded to be various impediments to “transparency” and “accountability” in the services provided through Collus PowerStream Solutions and operations of utilities through the CPUSB.

“Municipal direct operations is the best practice,” Ali said of the recommendation to eliminate CPUSB and simplify the structure by putting water and wastewater in town hands.

In addition to cost savings and increased transparency and accountability, Ali said the decision would give more and better options for consolidating the cross-training of staff to address workload increases as well as address upcoming expected retirements and succession planning. The resolution also includes that the position of Chief Operations Officer (COO) be reviewed in six months to allow the CAO and Acting COO (currently Peggy Slama) to make a recommendation with respect to staffing requirements.

In explaining his opposition to the recommendation, Edwards said decisions about water and wastewater were best left to the board and its “expertise,” and added that useful efficiencies and suggestions in the report could “still be handled by the board.”

Edwards stated doubt that the projected $700,000 per year savings would actually occur and also referred to the Walkerton water tragedy, saying a board helps prevent such situations.

“It sounds great on paper,” Edwards said of the report, though adding “I don’t really share those views.”

Lloyd expressed his agreement with Edwards and noted doubt that savings would be as significant as projected, saying “I totally agree with Coun. Edwards 100 per cent. I think the board structure is a more secure, better way for us to handle future needs.”

Cooper also referred to Walkerton in explaining her opposition, saying a board could have acted as an additional “safety net” to prevent the tragedy that occurred and adding, “That warning that could have been raised and I believe a board can do that.”

After the resolution passed Cooper said of CPUSB’s dissolution, “I know we’ll be losing a lot of good experience.”

On the yes side of the table, Saunderson said adopting the report’s recommendations “presents us with a very large opportunity,” and added that it will be a positive for the town which is “facing a number of challenges.”

Scrapping CPUSB is about “an outdated service delivery model,” Jeffery said in explaining her support, adding that “I think it (dissolution of CPUSB) will serve us better in changing times.”

Water and wastewater services will henceforth be run by a standing committee made up of members of council. The Acting COO will report directly to the Director of Public Works and Engineering Brian MacDonald and through him to the standing committee, which then will report to council.

As per another resolution passed by council at their June 22 special meeting, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be created with PowerStream to develop a new shared services agreement. This will replace the 2003 Agreement, as has been mutually agreed to by both parties. The new agreement will also specify PowerStream’s provision of several services to the town related to water and wastewater.

Collingwood dissolves public utilities services board

By John Edwards Collingwood Connection June 22 2915

The Town of Collingwood has dissolved the Collingwood Public Utilities Services Board (CPUSB).In a 5-3 vote, Council voted to remove the board and bring the management of water and wastewater services in-house.

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson, Councillors Kathy Jeffery, Deb Doherty, Bob Madigan and Cam Ecclestone voted in favour.

Mayor Sandra Cooper, Councillors Mike Edwards and Kevin Lloyd voted against.

“No member of councils or boards or committees are able to represent that committee at the council table,” Cooper said. “That’s for future consideration.”

Councillor Tim Fryer declared a conflict, as he’s a member of the CPUSB. Mayor Sandra Cooper said she’s on the same board but wasn’t declaring a conflict. Cooper then

According to town consultant Derek Ali, the decision is expected to save about $700,000 annually, including a reduction in audit services and staffing.

Ali said he hasn’t seen another municipality in Ontario with a water and wastewater organizational structure similar to Collingwood’s.

Ali believes this will provide “clear accountability and transparency.”

Jeffery believes this is the right decision.

“ It will serve us better in changing times,” she said.  “It’s about an outdated service delivery model. Times change.”

Edwards was skeptical of the estimated cost savings and said the board was full of experience.

“When the dust settles, it will be a little bit different picture,” he said.

Cooper didn’t want to see the removal of the board, suggesting that a “safety net” like the board would have helped prevent the water tragedy in Walkerton.

The operations of water and wastewater services will be managed by a standing committee, which will be comprised of members of council and will report to council.

Council also approved the creation of a memorandum of understanding with Collus Powerstream to develop a new shared services agreement with Collus Powerstream Solutions, which would see that company provide services to the town.

Editorial: Water changes are refreshing

Enterprise Bulletin

Council’s decision yesterday to put water and wastewater under town management and dissolve the Collingwood Public Utilities Services Board (CPUSB) is a refreshing drink of water on a hot summer day.

This change flushes out the system of a lot of unnecessary overlap and increases “transparency and accountability,” as consultant Derek Ali said in his presentation of the BMA report to council Monday night.

Projected savings of over $700,000 to the town each year are also a big plus.

Water and wastewater services will henceforth be run by a standing committee made up of members of council.

There are significant fiscal and procedural advantages to council’s decision.

If, after six months, it is determined the town does require a water director (at an estimated cost of $148,000) that is still significant savings of around $550,000 per year.

Safe, effective running of the town’s wastewater and water at a lower cost with greater transparency — what’s not to like?

Implications of increased chances of another Walkerton tragedy if the CPUSB was scrapped by Coun. Mike Edwards and Mayor Sandra Cooper are uncalled for and rather disquieting.

Numerous laws on water safety and oversight still remain firmly in place. It’s unclear what support there is for the claim that CPUSB acts as an additional “safety net” to prevent a tragedy like the 2000 Walkerton water e. coli outbreak that killed seven and sickened thousands.

What’s also unclear is why Cooper voted, since she served on the CPUSB and received a stipend for doing so at the time of the vote. Coun. Tim Fryer, who also served on the CPUSB at the time of the vote recused himself.

Speaking to the E-B June 23, Cooper said, in her opinion, taking part in the vote was appropriate.

“He (Fryer) may have had whatever reasons of his own that I’m not aware of. He did just let me know right before the council meeting that he would be stepping away, and I was in a different opinion and I spoke to someone that would (have) some good advice and thinking it through,” she said, adding it is comparable to service the Police Services Board. “I was appointed by the striking committee to represent council at the board (CPUSB),” she added.

Additionally, Coun. Kevin Lloyd and Edwards expressing doubt that as much savings would be retained as the BMA report projects are not reasonable. They cast doubt on the services of a professional consultant hired by the town and, for unspecified reasons other than some kind of general cynicism about “when the dust settles,” said that savings will be much less.

By that logic, maybe the savings will be much more. You never know.

“I think the board structure is a more secure, better way for us to handle future needs,” Lloyd said, in explaining his opposition to the resolution.

Well, no.

No, it’s not (as Ali had just clearly explained with detailed charts and calculations for the past hour prior to Lloyd’s comment).

The fact is, even if the projected savings weren’t present, scrapping the current model, which Coun. Kathy Jeffery called an “outdated service delivery model” is a good and obvious choice.

The fact is that the numbers, analysis and logic point to exactly what council voted 5-3 to do Monday night.

As Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson said, adopting the report’s recommendations “presents us with a very large opportunity.”

Let’s move forward and capitalize on such opportunities instead of resorting to fear-mongering.

Let’s do what’s best for Collingwood, both in image and practice.

 

 

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