Meaford council has given final approval for CAO Frank Miele to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Belize-based company Partners Energy Group (PEG) as a first step toward determining if a waste-to-energy facility can be built in Meaford.
The approval given during the Monday evening council meeting also gives the green light for Miele and PEG to make an application to the Ontario Power Authority in hopes of securing space on the electrical grid under the provincial Feed in Tariff (FIT) program.
The proposal put before council at the previous meeting on October 11, states that the Municipality of Meaford would own 51 percent of the operation however they won't need to contribute any funds to the start up or operational costs.
The proposal indicates that the $46 million required to fund the public-private-partnership (P3) start-up and initial operation costs would be raised primarily from $40 million to be borrowed from banks and other lenders. The proposed partnership would require a 20 year agreement between the municipality, PEG, and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA).
During council's discussion of the proposal, Councillor Deborah Young said that false information about the project had been given to the public, and she stated that she has no reservations about moving forward with the project.
“I would not even be thinking about this for one moment if I thought something strange was going on,” offered Young.
Councillor Young did not say what false information had been provided to the public.
CAO Miele assured council that there is no risk in negotiating a memorandum of understanding with PEG and making an application to the OPA.
“The MOU is a first step toward creation of a partnership,” Miele told council, “This is not a slam dunk opportunity, this is an opportunity to get in line for capacity.”
Councillor James McIntosh requested that the agenda item be tabled until a later date in order to allow councillors to digest new information that had been provided to them during a closed session of council which took place prior to the Monday council meeting.
McIntosh said that he is in favour of the waste-to-energy concept, but wanted more time to find answers to some of his concerns with the proposal.
“We have had some positive information in the 11th hour, but we have nothing in writing,” said McIntosh, “I'm not comfortable, not all of my questions have been answered.”
McIntosh found no support from his fellow councillors to table the proposal. In the vote that followed, only Councillor McIntosh voted against moving forward with the negotiation of an MOU.
After the meeting Councillor Barb Clumpus told reporters that she is comfortable with moving forward with the proposal.
“I'm comfortable in the sense that I respect the answers that we have been given, and I am very excited to be looking forward to new green technologies, new potential for jobs, new potential for us to mitigate some expenses that we have relating to waste, and to generate some revenues through power generation through the FIT program,” offered Clumpus.
Clumpus also told reporters that she doesn't feel that negotiating a memorandum of understanding, and making an application to the OPA presents any risk to the municipality.
“At this stage in the game we are simply entering into a memorandum of understanding, we will see all of the details when it comes out, and we will be very comfortable with that,” said Clumpus, “I know that there's been a lot of questions that have come forward, and we have had those concerns as well that will be addressed through the memorandum of understanding.”
Clumpus stressed that there is little risk for the municipality saying that aside from the initial $51,000 for the application to the FIT program, there will be no cost to the municipality.
“That of course will come back through revenue generation capabilities once we're on the grid, and if it's (the application) denied, then we get it back,” said Clumpus, “It seemed to me that this is a risk that we could enter into, knowing that we have no other financial obligations other than the $51,000, and that we will proceed in a judicious way when we get this memorandum of understanding.”
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