Ontario's water, sewage to stay contracted out
- Hamilton councilors rejected calls for more public
consultation and voted 6-3 yesterday to continue contracting out
operation of the city's water- and sewage-treatment plants.
The public works
committee recommendation goes to the full city council next
If it's approved,
officials will abandon the idea of taking operations back
in-house and will seek bids on a new contract to replace an
untendered 10-year pact that expires Dec. 31.
The present deal
has been dogged by controversy since the former
Hamilton-Wentworth region awarded it without competition to the
then-local Philip Utilities Management Corp. PUMC was later sold
to Azurix North America, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Enron, in
turn swallowed by American Water Works, which is now owned by a
German multinational company.
Azurix was blamed
for a massive sewage spill and collected a number of
environmental convictions and fines.
covers operation of the main water-treatment plant, three
communal well systems, three sewage-treatment plants, six
sewage-storage tanks and a number of reservoirs and pumping
stations. It does not cover water mains, sewer pipes or water
testing, which remain in the hands of city employees.
from 17 speakers, most of whom asked for further study, the
committee first voted not to delay a decision, then to accept a
staff recommendation to again contract out the work. The split
was the same on both votes.
On one side was a
suburban majority consisting of Mayor Larry Di Ianni and
councillors Dave Mitchell, Margaret McCarthy, Murray Ferguson,
Phil Bruckler and Dave Braden. On the other were old-Hamilton
councillors Chad Collins, Tom Jackson and Sam Merulla.
Collins, who is
committee chair, called the decisions regrettable, saying the
message he'd heard from citizens is that they wanted to be more
involved in the debate over an "untouchable" essential
speakers who argued against contracting out were Sid Ryan,
Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees;
Sara Ehrhardt, national water campaigner for the Council of
Canadians, and Andrea Kelly, representing the Canadian Catholic
Organizaton for Development and Peace (Hamilton Diocese).
Di Ianni missed
most of the meeting to be with Premier Dalton McGuinty on a
visit to Helen Detwiler School on the south Mountain, prompting
Earhardt to complain the mayor "didn't take time to listen
and yet voted."
called the committee action "shocking," saying it
showed "blatant disregard for citizens."
wastewater director Jim Harnum told the committee earlier this
month the city had realized the $703,000 annual savings
guaranteed in the original contract, but yesterday he upped the
nine-year savings to more than $9 million.
he said he could only explain the difference in camera, at a
closed-door session with the public excluded. Peter Crockett,
general manager of public works, also told committee members
they would have to go in camera to hear about negotiations on a
reported $8 million in extra payments American Water is seeking
from the city.