Meaford council decides controversial waste plan dead 0
Meaford's controversial waste-to-energy proposal is dead.
Council voted 5-2 against it three times Monday night, finally passing a motion to "declare the matter is no longer under consideration."
That puts to rest the Partners Energy Group plan for a gasification plant, in partnership with Meaford, under a 20-year agreement with the Ontario Power Authority.
Councillors who opposed the project Monday night said community opinion is clearly against it. They pointed to a well-organized community group which gathered 2,000 names on a petition against the project -- a petition councillors also agreed no one has seen but everyone knows about.
"I have no reason to disbelieve it," Deputy- Mayor Harley Greenfield said.
Coun. Deborah Young angrily disputed the numbers, saying since the last council meeting she received just 49 e-mails against the PEG project, representing just over 60 people including family members old enough to vote.
Young said not allowing PEG to host the long-delayed public meeting and present its proposal in detail because 63 people oppose it would be "grossly unfair."
"I'm very angry because democracy is basically dead in this place, and we're closed for business," Young said.
Coun. Mike Poetker, who proposed the motion two weeks ago to kill the proposal, said nothing compels council to do business with someone just because they request it.
"I do not want to do business with PEG and I'm simply asking around the table," Poetker said.
In three recorded votes, requested by Young, PEG had support from only Young and Coun. Lynda Stevens, while Poetker, Coun. Barb Klumpus, Coun. James MacIntosh, Greenfield and Mayor Francis Richardson voted each time against continuing discussions.
The first vote lifted off the table a November motion to enter a memorandum of understanding. The second defeated that motion. The third confirmed council has no further interest in the PEG project.
Stevens said she could not vote with the majority because it was against fair process. Without hearing all the details from both sides, including staff reports, she couldn't reach an informed, unbiased decision on the issue, she said.
Doing things that way brings the municipality into disrepute, both Young and Stevens said.
Greenfield said he had doubts all along and some of the Belizebased Partners Energy Group's initial materials in October were "questionable" and the group has had months to provide better information and change his mind.
"We haven't had that," he said.
The PEG plan was for 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.
It has been in limbo since November, when council tabled a motion to enter a memorandum of understanding until PEG officials held a public meeting in the face of growing community opposition.
That January meeting was cancelled until after a review of the provincial energy program, which was completed last month.
In an inter view earlier Monday, Rob Forte, the project manager for PEG, said he was aware the Meaford decision would be made that night. With the FIT review complete and new rules in place, he said he was prepared to go ahead with the project and a public meeting, all under the new Feed-in Tariff program rules, still in draft stages but likely to be final early next month, if it survived council's debate later that night.
"Whichever way it goes, we're ready for that decision," Forte said.
He was unable to attend the council meeting Monday and would not do so anyway to avoid influencing, he said.
"This is something they should discuss among themselves," he said. "Up until this point, I've been available. No one has called me, so maybe they are quite satisfied with the rules."
Forte also said he had sent details and web links related to any changes to the program to councillors through staff and indicated PEG was willing to proceed with the project.
"Our hope is to keep going forward. If we need to prove viability we're fully prepared to do that, as we were before."
Richardson confirmed after the decision that information did go to councillors and he spoke with Forte Monday.
Richardson said he was happy the project had been put to rest.
"I regret that this has caused such an upset in the community, but I think the community is speaking loud and clear about what they would like to have happen and not."