More than 500 people signed petition to oppose project, say Friends of the Pontiac
Campbell's Bay October 25, 2023
A proposal to develop a business plan for a garbage incinerator project in MRC Pontiac has been approved by mayors at a special meeting held at the MRC’s Campbell’s Bay office last Wednesday.
In a 12-to-6 vote, the Council of Mayors passed a motion authorizing consulting firm Deloitte to proceed with the implementation of its proposal under a contract for $120,000.
The Deloitte proposal describes its envisioned work as “completing an initial business case (IBC) that is intended to review the costs of the Pontiac EFW [energy-from-waste facility] against a base-line landfill option, and to recommend a plan that will outline key steps needed to confirm waste supply, obtain approvals and funding, and to execute the procurement of the Pontiac EFW.”
The proposal identifies Danish company Ramboll as a subcontractor that, with Deloitte, will form an “integrated advisory team that will deliver the services to complete the IBC.”
Last week’s decision to proceed with the Deloitte proposal follows a decision taken by mayors at a special meeting in August which, also in a 12-to-6 vote, set aside $100,000 from the MRC’s accumulated surplus for a sole-source contract with Deloitte, in a resolution that required “that this sum be committed only after Council has approved the proposal submitted by Deloitte for the production of the business plan.”
An additional $20,000, all that remains of a $50,000 budget set aside four years ago for consultation on the energy-from-waste project, was also allocated to the development of the business plan, bringing the total to $120,000, just under the $121,200 maximum allowable under provincial rules for a sole-source contract.
In the Council’s regular public meeting on August 16, the warden explained that Council had decided to reduce the budget from the previously-envisioned $200,000 down to $120,000, and that it would be solely for the development of a business plan and not include an environmental assessment.
In her remarks at the meeting of mayors last Wednesday, Warden Toller thanked mayors Donnie Gagnon and Colleen Lariviere for bringing to the Council’s attention the requirement for a vote on whether to establish a contract with Deloitte based on the company’s proposal, as required by the August resolution.
“It is a fact that for any contract to move forward, there has to be a resolution, so I thank Mayor Lariviere and Mayor Gagnon for calling this meeting today so that we can vote properly on the resolution,” said the warden.
The warden then offered the floor to mayors Lariviere and Gagnon but, before either could speak, a motion was quickly proposed, seconded and voted on to shift the meeting to an in-camera session. Over the protests of several mayors, the warden declared that the motion had passed, the Council would now continue its meeting in private and the media, members of the public and staff were asked to leave the room. The better part of an hour had passed before the public was invited back into the meeting.
Prior to the vote on the resolution to engage Deloitte, comments from mayors were invited and were largely favourable. The only dissenting views were expressed by Litchfield Mayor Colleen Lariviere who registered her disagreement with the allocation of $100,000 from the MRC’s accumulated surplus to this purpose, which she said could have been funded from other sources, and Chichester Mayor Donnie Gagnon who added “any money we spend here at the MRC has an effect on all the municipalities.”
The vote was then taken with Alleyn-Cawood, Allumettes Island, Bryson, Calumet Island, Campbell’s Bay, Fort Coulonge, Mansfield and Pontefract, Portage du Fort, Rapides des Joachims, Shawville, Sheenboro and Thorne voting in favour of the resolution, and Bristol, Chichester, Clarendon, Litchfield, Otter Lake and Waltham voting against.
In a media scrum following Wednesday’s meeting, the warden explained that the contract with Deloitte would be split 50/50 with Ramboll, with $60,000 going to each company. Asked why Ramboll’s participation was required, given the warden’s earlier description of Deloitte’s expertise in the field as sufficient justification for a sole-source contract, the warden explained that “Deloitte’s expertise is in the financial model, more the financial business, how it’s all going to work with the partners, the governance. What Ramboll will give is the environmental, the technologies available, what technologies would build different parts of the incinerator, what it’s going to cost.”
Pressed on why Deloitte had been given a sole-source contract rather than creating an open bidding process in which other companies such as Ernst and Young, KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCooper, among others, could conceivably have brought forward proposals, the warden said Deloitte was chosen because it had done the business plan for Durham-York, the one energy-from-waste facility that she and the mayors had toured, “And we were impressed with it,” she said.
“We feel we are in good hands with Deloitte,” she said.
The warden explained that Deloitte “opened our eyes” to the fact that the project would need additional expertise, and proposed three companies for consideration by the Council: HDR, WSP and Ramboll. Asked why Ramboll was chosen and whether the warden and mayors had ever met with Ramboll, the warden said “We had a couple of virtual meetings when we were first reviewing the business plan, and then, for the mayors, when we had our plenary meeting, they were on the screen,” she said, explaining that of the three recommended companies, only Ramboll was granted the opportunity to join the mayors via in their private plenary meeting earlier in October via the internet.
“So, we’re still paying $120,000 but we’re actually getting a lot more for the money than I had expected,” said Toller.
“I thought at first it was just going to be like a financial business plan. Bill McCleary raised the concern about ‘is environment going to be mentioned enough?’ Yes, it is. When you get your own copy, you are going to see that the environmental part is going to be covered well by Ramboll,” she said.
Asked about the timeline for the development of the business plan, the warder said, “There is going to be a preliminary report given to us in November and then we’ll have a final report later, probably into 2024.”
Remo Pasteris of Bristol and Christine Anderson of Thorne, members of the local citizens’ group Friends of the Pontiac, made interventions during the public question portion of the meeting.
Pasteris asked whether the planned environmental assessment will take into consideration the potential for public liability, citing cases in other jurisdictions where toxic contaminants found in the environment led to class action lawsuits resulting in the payout of millions of dollars and what this could mean for tax payers. In her response, the warden said the first step is to conduct a business study and to identify the cleanest technology available, with an environmental assessment to come later. She said that while this is the first time she has heard of environmental assessment and liability “going hand in hand”, as Pasteris had put it, she said “that will be something we will follow up with.”
Anderson said that a petition opposing the incinerator project had already garnered more than 500 signatures, suggesting that support for the initiative “it’s not the 100 per cent consensus that you might think.” The warden replied that she had never said she expected there would be 100 per cent support for the project.
“It’s never 100 per cent, but a majority of people I believe today have placed their hope in an opportunity like this to look after our waste and be a leader in Quebec,” she said.
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