Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Are Kitchener taxpayers getting their money's worth?

I tend to shy away from local politics in this blog. However, this item may have universal appeal inasmuch as it serves as an example of why it is crucial to pay attention to municipal issues and elections. A large portion of your property tax bill can be affected by incompetence and a feeling of entitlement.

Kitchener City Council has already been in the limelight before, courtesy of Rick Mercer. Now local reporter Record Terry Pender is putting the city's purchase of a portion of a large industrial site under the microscope. The results aren't pretty.

If I interpret all this correctly, the city originally purchased the land from South Kitchener Holdings at almost double the cost that Michelin sold it for. The reason given was that SKH had agreed to do all the environmental clean-up, so it was a 'good deal'.

However, Michelin must have gotten wind of this and felt the air had to be cleared - They are paying for the cleanup themselves.

Councillor Geoff Lorentz and Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr justified their actions as follows:

...Lorentz said yesterday that if he had known Michelin was going to clean up the site, he might have voted differently on the purchase agreement.

"Nobody told me: 'Hey, we can get a deal on this because Michelin was going to clean up the site,' " Lorentz said.

"I don't think anybody on council had that information."

Lorentz is angry at Michelin for making public the environmental remediation work, accusing the company of trying to protect its corporate image after disrupting the lives of hundreds of Kitchener workers.

"They put a lot of people out of work in this community and caused a lot of hardship, and now they are worried about their reputation -- that's a hard pill to swallow," Lorentz said.

Michelin closed the former BF Goodrich plant in the summer of 2006, throwing 1,100 out of work.

Mayor Carl Zehr said he didn't know anything about Michelin's cleanup deal with South Kitchener Holdings...

John Gazzola, the only councillor that had raised concerns and voted against the deal, is also now the only one to take responsibility. "I really don't think we did our homework, to tell you the truth."

"The difference in price was to clean up the land -- that's fine," Gazzola said. "But if Michelin did it, why are we paying South Kitchener Holdings for cleaning up the land?"

Michelin's announcement provoked Gazzola to raise the issue again. "Someone isn't really putting all the information out," he said...

Indeed. It would seem that most council members are either trying to cover something up, or else they don't have a clue.

On the other hand, what can you expect from a crew that has to go to an Elton John concert to see how the auditorium works?

* * * *
Thursday Update: Answers needed on Goodrich deal. (Record)


OMMAG said...


BTW - Although it's a School Board issue ....
There was talk of a bunch of High Schools in the Waterloo Region being closed and the establishment of a MEGA school somewhere out by Doon .... I wonder if that one is going through similar due diligence.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Wow! I didn't hear about that one.

Dave said...

Very interesting comments Joanne. I must add that it is pretty much a no-brainer in these days of highened environmental awareness, that if a large industrial site is to be sold, the MOE gets involved early in the process. I'm sure that was the case here too.

Anyone who drove by that site even back in 2006, and long before ANY deals would have been made, could not help but notice obvious soil remediation work going on. One morning when I drove by, there had to be 30+ of those huge earth haulers lined up in the parking lot. I don't even think that a "for sale" sign was up yet, so it was pretty obvious who would be arranging for this environmental cleanup. Certainly not South Kitchener Holdings.

Guess it's a stretch to think that Mayor Zehr and city council would have gone to all the trouble of checking with the MOE, BEFORE committing "millions" of taxpayer dollars to buy a piece of this property at roughly twice the price SKH paid only a short time earlier.
It's called 'due diligence'.

Anyway, after all is said and done we'll have all those public works vehicles and personnel under one roof. At least with the anticipated efficiency improvements, we'll be able to count on better services for our tax dollar ... like ... uh... POTHOLES REPAIRED. Right? right??

Greg said...

Centralization of services always sounds good in theory. I have found in practice the exact opposite, especially in government. Some self important bureaucrats will no doubt see this massive facility as a way to demonstrate their great need for increased staffing to make their coffee for them. Look at the amalgamated T.O. for example. Staffing has only increased since then, worst thing Mike Harris did during his time. How many layoffs has the city announced lately anyway? Is it easy to dump city employees? What are the capital costs going to be? Even if they do lay off a few people, it will be 6 generations before they pay it off.