Tempers flare after councillor tries to put an end to PEG project 0
A motion Tuesday to put to rest Meaford's controversial energy-from-waste proposal will now wait two weeks after tempers flared and procedural questions curtailed discussion.
Coun. Mike Poetker's motion asked that council "declare there is no interest by the municipality to host a waste to energy gasification project . . . and declare the matter is no longer under consideration."
Poetker said the small amount of incentive money Meaford might make from the Partners Energy Group proposal, which has been on the shelf since early January, wouldn't cover the cost of repairing roads from related truck traffic.
s a lifelong resident, he also said, he would not want Meaford to become a way station for whatever the firm decides to burn there.
"The emotional and mental health of our residents is being compromised by the mere thought of such a thing and I think it is important to take that into consideration and not allow this to happen in our municipality," Poetker said.
The issue has been a hot one, with public questions during almost every council session, including two Tuesday from people in the gallery, both asking when council would finally consider a motion to walk away from the plan.
"That could happen at any time," Mayor Francis Richardson told the citizens.
Partners Energy Group is seeking support from Meaford--through an as yet unsigned memorandum of understanding --allowing the group to seek a 20-year power agreement from the Ontario Power Authority.
PEG would then build a 10 megawatt waste to energy plant on municipal property on the 7th line. The technology burns feedstock --including sorted municipal garbage, forestry and agricultural waste --and uses steam to generate electricity.
PEG's plan, which was strongly supported by former Meaford CAO Frank Miele, has been in limbo and under intense public opposition since January.
In November, council tabled a motion which if passed would have authorized the CAO to sign a memorandum of understanding with PEG and proceed with the project.
Instead, council asked that the company first face Meaford's public and answer questions to council's satisfaction about PEG, its plans and the technology it would use.
That meeting, set for early January, was cancelled at the last minute, at PEG's request until implications were clear following a provincial review of its Feed-in Tariff energy program. That review changed little related to the project, a PEG spokesman has said since then.
Poetker's motion to end ties with PEG was not on the agenda for Tuesday. It came up at the end of the meeting and required a two-thirds majority for consideration, supported by six of seven at the table.
That prompted an angry reaction from Coun. Deb Young, who accused her colleagues of "back-room politics," echoing concerns she raised two weeks ago about unnecessary closed sessions.
Young said the snap motion she, and others, it was later revealed, knew nothing about, allowed no time to prepare for the vote and ignored time-tested rules of procedure, where councillors usually give notice at one meeting for a motion to be debated at the next.
"To be blunt, this is a political move" to satisfy a small group of people Young claimed are "trying to take over this council and they are succeeding and I don't know what to do about it."
Richardson and Deputymayor Harley Greenfield both denied her claims.
"There's nothing behind closed doors, this is part of democratic procedure," the mayor said.
"As far as I know, Coun. Young, there's no diabolical scheme here to fix things," said Greenfield.
Coun. Lynda Stephens also spoke strongly against rushing to end the PEG project without following proper process, hearing the results of PEG's meeting and deciding based on real information.
"I think this is very unfair," Stephens said. "We haven't even gotten to the beginning of the process. I think it's very important that we have the public meeting."
Coun. Barb Clumpus, who seconded Poetker's motion Tuesday, said PEG has written to the former CAO to advise the company is "reluctant to meet the public" without first having the signed MoU from the municipality to proceed with the project.
But she warned against any agreement with the firm without first knowing more about PEG, the technology and clear staff direction on the financial and legal implications.
"I just think that it would be in the best interest of the community that we just put it to rest," Clumpus said.
Greenfield reminded council there was already a PEG motion tabled, the one from November about signing an MoU.
Clerk Pam Fettes confirmed council would have to deal with that one before discussing Poetker's new motion.
So at the mayor's suggestion, Poetker and Clumpus agreed to withdraw Tuesday's motion.
Then things became truly confused. It was unclear exactly what had been
tabled, and what lifting it from the table for discussion might mean.
Since the November motion was tabled until after a public meeting which never happened, Fettes told council, lifting that tabled motion back to the table for consideration would mean any reference to a public meeting died and council faced a decision about the initial request to direct the CAO to sign a memorandum of understanding with PEG.
Instead, Richardson called a five minute recess "to organize our thoughts" then reconvened to say everything would wait two weeks, when Poetker and Clumpus would reintroduce their motion.
Meanwhile, the initial November motion remains tabled.
Greenfield also said he plans to introduce a motion at the next council session which would give PEG 30 days to advise council of the date and location of the long-awaited public meeting.