Many of you now know that Tillsonburg Town Council is looking into the ‘disposition’ of Tillsonburg Hydro Inc. The government would like to see the little hydro companies about Ontario consolidate, merge or amalgamate or whatever, to six to eight groups, which they claim would save money and make it easier for them to deal with.
Why? Our little hydro system, to quote Deputy Mayor Mark Renaud, is "a gem". It makes money and in the past it has been able to keep up with changing technologies.
Town council was given the recommendation of the Tillsonburg Hydro Board. A motion was put on the February 27 council meeting agenda to: "Approve the disposition of Tillsonburg Hydro Inc. through the request for proposal process."
But no one on council thought to inform the ratepayers/shareholders. (That is you.)
This caused no little commotion in town last week as word got around. County staff is directed, by council, on the wording of motions. Although the council would have us believe that disposition does not necessarily mean the sale of; it could mean merger or amalgamation, it all comes down to the real definition which according to the Encarta English Dictionary means the same as disposal.
As word got around, councillors started getting a wave of phone calls and emails. They suddenly realized the citizens were not thrilled with the idea and the motion was not approved at the council meeting. Instead a motion was made to inform the citizens of why Tillsonburg Hydro Inc., recommended to the council to start the ‘requisition for proposal process’ that's needed to dispose of the company.
It was stated at council that the public was acting from the heart not the mind. That is very true, because the town chose not to inform the public of the reasons behind the motion; there was no other organ from which we could react.
Those of us in attendance were very pleased council will now educate us in the whys and wherefores, so that we can make informed decisions.
What I didn’t understand was why council did not do this until the public stood up and said, "wait a minute, we want to know why?"
The words "open" and "transparent" are on the lips of every politician in the province however, what a politician thinks those words means, is at the opposite end of the spectrum of what the public thinks those words mean.
There are often closed-door council meetings, which do not invoke transparencies. There are a lot of seniors in this town that either don’t use computers or that might have problems finding agendas and information on websites. Open, is using CKOT or the Tillsonburg News. The big advertisement you run in the Tillsonburg Independent News once a month could inform us of what is coming up in council or just have the media report it.
Transparency would have been telling us the whole story about what happened with respect to town security back in 2012, and bringing us up to date with it now.
Being open and transparent means educating the public in advance of big changes that are or could be occurring. Perhaps Tillsonburg is different than other communities. We certainly know this is the best place to live and we will fundraise anything into existence that we think will improve our community. So why would council think we would not care about something like the possibility of selling off our own hydro company, one of our largest assets, that makes a profit?
Did they not learn how passionate Tillsonburg citizens can be when something as small as changing the cemetery sign got so many people worked up? A preliminary drawing of the proposed sign could have been in the newspaper to see what the reaction would be. That would have been open and transparent.
When the council thought to sell off park lands the same type of uproar occurred. Why?
Parks and Recreation is being very transparent and educating the public, as information is made available, with the removal of the old horse barns and grandstand. Newspaper articles showing proposals, asking for input prior to decisions on what to do with the extra land, is exactly what should have been done and what needs to be done with the Tillsonburg Hydro situation.
If rumours about town are true, about selling the airport or any other asset the town owns, council might want to consider following the Parks and Recreation’s template of keeping us abreast of the reasons being considered for removal or change, and get the public's input before council makes their decisions.
We care passionately about our town, please keep us informed.