Wasaga utility decision irks some
WASAGA BEACH - Thousands of Wasaga Beach residents are breathing a sigh of relief now that the town council unanimously decided not to sell the town-owned electric utility.
However, the decision made at a July 6 special meeting with another singular topic on the agenda took some members of council by surprise. A decision had been scheduled for a public meeting on July 18 at the Wasaga RecPlex.
“The people of Wasaga Beach have spoken loud and clear about their desire to retain ownership of our utility provider,” Mayor Brian Smith said after the vote. “Council has heard the message and acted accordingly. Given all we now know, we did not see any sense in delaying our course of action.”
However, Deputy Mayor Nina Bifolchi, who took a stand against the sale last fall, was out of town and not scheduled to be present at the July 6 meeting.
“While I thought this surprise motion was completely inappropriate, I am both happy and relieved with this outcome,” she said.
“However, I have some serious concerns about how this entire process played out, including a surprise motion at a special meeting of council that the mayor and others knew I was unable to attend,” Bifolchi added. “Also, some members of council, but not all, were privy to the motion prior to the meeting.
“I’m glad I arrived home early and was able to be part of this very important vote. In my opinion, council put this community through unnecessary turmoil and expense.”
Coun. Sylvia Bray, who stood with Bifolchi against the sale early in the process, estimated it has cost the town more than $100,000, including staff time.
While she supported the vote not to sell, she said it robbed the public of involvement in the vote.
“I felt it was a cowardly action. There was only one person at the meeting. We kind of denied the 800 people who showed up at the last meeting to take part in the decision,” she said.
“My belief is it should have been a public meeting however it was the right decision and I’m glad it’s over.”
Last October, Wasaga Distribution’s board of directors, which includes Mayor Smith, made a presentation to council with the help of electricity sector lawyer Mark Rodger of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP unanimously recommending the sale of the utility. They explained that council had three options: retain and grow the utility; merge the utility; or sell it. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/GiseleSarvis