Regarding InnPower, Councillor Stan Daurio’s motion to explore other options for hydro distribution failed to pass last night. Only Councillors Daurio and Richard Simpson voted in favour of the motion. There had been an InnPower Board meeting immediately prior to the council meeting and town staff seemed convinced that the financial numbers were favourable to keep the status quo. Deputy Mayor Lynn Dollin and Counc. Doug Lougheed argued that Daurio’s numbers were simplified and not necessarily accurate and that the hydro rates would actually be cheaper by staying the course. Lougheed argued that, on July 1, the Town would be receiving an additional 25% relief on rural area distribution charges in addition to the 25% that the Liberal government is already offering. He said Alectra is an urban-based company so InnPower would not benefit from lower rates by partnering with it. He argued that InnPower rates would actually be less than as it stands now. Others argued that no formal “numbers” or proposals were ever presented to council by any other parties and the point of Daurio’s motion was to get other proposals. He had a representative from Alectra in the audience, but was denied the right to have him answer questions, as this broke with council meeting protocol. Dollin also said that, when EPCOR tried to buy one-half of InnPower, almost all of the citizens who spoke at council were in favour of keeping InnPower as a town asset. Most councillors felt that the long term view for InnPower was the best course. It was estimated that InnPower is already worth $59 million (not $40 million as previously estimated) and would likely be worth $100 million within 10 years. If Daurio’s motion had passed, this would have been a golden opportunity to examine other proposals, compare the numbers and say “yes it’s better to keep InnPower as it is” or conclude that the numbers indicate otherwise. We weren’t given the chance.
Finally concerning the Hwy 400 lands, the motion had six components and was somewhat complicated. The Cortel Group had offered $20 million in upfront development charges, but the Town would have to commit to large $ numbers to bring sewers and water to the area. Council rejected the $20 million from Cortel as well as the idea of going deeper into debt– to $142 million up from a previously expected $72 million and concluded that staff, InnServices and external assistance be utilized to re-examine the entire proposal. A financially-viable case must be made before any borrowing could occur. Council wants companies planning to build on the employment lands to make financial commitments. As well, there was a request to look at new and innovative funding ideas. For example, if a massive septic system can service a proposed 200-home development in Stroud, could the Hwy 400 lands be serviced by a similar massive septic system paid for by the developers? Kudos go to Counc. Rob Nichol who argued defiantly against borrowing more money. Counc. Richard Simpson also was a strong voice of reason. In the end, Counc. Lougheed and Mayor Wauchope voted for borrowing to service the lands. All the others “stopped the insanity” and wanted a compelling business case and new ideas before proceeding.
After the Council meeting, CAO Jason Reynar issued the following in an email to IDA President Ross Pityk, explaining the final resolution that was passed at the meeting:
“Please find below the resolution that was passed by Innisfil Council on June 7, which advances the Innisfil Heights Strategic Employment Area in several important ways. Although the current servicing approach has proven to be too costly and InnServices and the Town have their work cut out for them to find another way, Council remains committed to attracting and retaining businesses in this critical area. Staff will be work planning these actions and further communication will be forthcoming.”
- That Council receives the update on the servicing of Innisfil Heights Employment Area, pursuant to Staff Report DSR-100-17 dated June 7, 2017;
- That Council directs staff, in collaboration with the County of Simcoe, to apply to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to expand the current boundary of the Innisfil Heights Employment Area (as contemplated in OPA1) and increase the flexibility of uses beyond the current 25% cap on employment accessory uses (e.g. hotel);
- That Council expresses its appreciation to the Cortel Group for its willingness to financially support the servicing of Innisfil Heights and that Staff be directed to engage this developer further in front-end financing options once the development charge background study has been updated;
- That Council directs staff to accelerate the full development charge background study to incorporate, among other things, the revised estimate for servicing Innisfil Heights and the financing for same;
- That Council directs staff to research and retain necessary external assistance regarding a front-end financing model for all development charges, engineering assistance, as well as assisting in financial modeling to address the debt capacity issue; and,
- That Council, as Shareholder of InnServices Utilities Inc., advises the Board to defer the servicing of Innisfil Heights until a viable business case is achieved and ensures that debt capacities for both the Town and InnServices are not exceeded in order to deliver servicing.