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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Collingwood to Sell Electric Utility, but to Whom?

Collingwood | by Catherine Thompson  

Alectra can buy it, but EPCOR also wants it

Collingwood council may have made a decision on who it wants to sell the remaining town-owned half of the electric utility to, but it's ultimately not up to council.  

In a 7-2 vote (Mayor Sandra Cooper and Councillor Kevin Lloyd against) on Monday evening, council chose Edmonton based company EPCOR to sell to, but the current utility company has the final say.

After an in-camera meeting, the council decision was made. There was one outburst from a man in the audience who yelled "shame" and then left.

Following a bit of a recess, energy lawyer Mark Rodger made a presentation in which he said Alectra, formerly PowerStream, has 20 days to decide whether to sell its shares to the town.  The town would then sell 100 percent of the utility to EPCOR. Or Alectra can buy the town's 50 percent thus owning the whole company.

 Whichever company it ends up being, it will own the whole utility.

 Rodger says the net share sale proceeds with either company, after adjustment, is estimated at 12.5 to 13 million dollars. The sale of half of the town's shares to Collus PowerStream in 2012 brought in 8 million dollars.

The town has included terms in the deal that distribution rates will decrease slightly for five years with Alectra or EPCOR. But Rodger says in the long term, rates will go up under any ownership scenario.  He adds that the town has made provisions for current local utility employees to have a job guarantee for two years and for the utility company to lease the Collus building for 25 years so it keeps a Collingwood presence.

 The lawyer also explained to the full council chambers that this has been a difficult process because of the existing shareholders agreement that was signed when the town sold fifty percent of its shares to Collus PowerStream.   What's called a buy/sell or shotgun clause means details can't be released and that's why the talks about the town pursuing EPCOR as the best choice based on a RFP process were all done in-camera.

 Councillor Kevin Lloyd did not support selling the rest of the utility or the process which he says was not transparent with no public consultation. He says he will launch a third party inquiry into the process. He left before the lawyer's presentation to go to another engagement and said he couldn't comment before the lawyer's information was released.

 Terms of the sale also include a contribution of 150 thousand dollars to the town for the Waterfront Master Plan. 

The town is going to hold a public information session once Alectra's decision is known.

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