Friday, September 08, 2006
How Smelly Sludge Turned Non-odorous
I happened to find this list of Case studies "100 Projects Selected Public-Private Partnerships Across Canada" and was interested to see what Windsor's contributions were. After sifting through a lot of garbage, and it was messy, a number of questions arose that Administration needs to answer about one of the projects.
One of the projects mentioned for Windsor was #18 Essex-Windsor Regional Landfill: ooooooooooops that did not work out too well for us: "MFP Financial Services Ltd., a private financial solutions advisor, won the RFP and set up an Investment Trust." How many tens millions of dollars extra did that cost us over what we expected to pay out when that deal turned sour.
Then there was one right above it, #17 that I had not heard about before. Apparently "Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships gave a silver award to Prism Berlie for its arrangement made with the city". I hoped that this project would not wind up in the same fashion as MFP, costing us more than we thought.
- "Windsor Biosolids Processing Facility
The City of Windsor, Ont. contracted with Prism Berlie (now Azurix) to build, finance, own and operate a biosolids processing facility for 20 years. The facility was completed in the spring of 1999 and uses heat drying to convert sewage sludge (biosolids) from Windsor's two sewage treatment plants into marketable fertilizer pellets. The City is responsible for providing a minimum of 30,000 wet tonnes per year to Azurix. The company is responsible for transportation from the City plants, all facility operations, permits and marketing the pellets to end-users. The original capital cost of the project, financed by then-Prism Berlie, was $10 million."
So I decided to look into it since it was described as a $60 million deal over its life. That's big money in any league. I read a very interesting document prepared by the City describing the deal. One comment jumped out at me "The private company's incentive under BOOT [build, own, operate,transfer] is to make as much money as possible during its period of ownership." Ownership transfers to the City after 20 years.
It appears that sludge smells. Not only smells but stinks, badly. Getting rid of sludge can also pay well if you do it right.
The odours from "the open method of stabilizing and then storing biosolids, sometimes for periods exceeding six months, have upset both domestic and industrial residents in the west end of Windsor." Council decided in 1997 to plan for a "more effective non-odorous method of stabilizing and recycling the biosolids from" the two pollution control plants. Moreover, as the Star reported "Michigan Democrat lawmakers don't want stinky, blood smeared trucks carrying biohazards and bodily waste -- including treated sewage sludge from Windsor -- rolling through Michigan streets. "
After an extensive RFP proposal that is set out ad nauseum in the Administration Report, Prism-Berlie won the job with their technology. Of course it was picked since it was "state of the art" and would "operate with no offending odour." We in Windsor have to be the pace-setters right.
In an article I found, I saw that
- "Azurix Corp is a holding company formed in 1998 with the majority of stock split evenly between Enron Corp and Marlin Water Trust. (Public shareholders own the rest. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, listed under the short form AZRX. Azurix companies are located around the world, among them Wessex Water Services Ltd. in the United Kingdom, and there are water treatment facilities in Argentina as well."
One of its "purchase in Ontario was Prism Berlie, which operates a state-of-the-art biosolid pelletizing plant in Windsor." In April 2001, Enron announced it would break up Azurix and sell its assets.
The contract was signed in 1997 to start, after construction, in 1999. There was a 2 year period when the former contract ended and the new plant was operating so a tender went out for hauling sludge to a landfill and Prism-Berlie won that tender at a price of $27 per ton. [Remember that number]
The plant opened. I am not sure if someone confirmed that the plant met its specs at the time and was able to process all of the sludge. I believe that, in fact, the plant may not have done so and therefore some amount of sludge still had to be hauled away. That should be an easy figure to obtain.
Another interesting Star story in June 1999 said
- "Windsor's much-vaunted high-tech and environmentally friendly solution to dealing with its sewage has, according to this story, turned into very expensive garbage. It cost city taxpayers $40 a tonne a few months ago to landfill city sewage. The $19-million state-of-the-art Prism-Berlie biosolids recycling plant which opened Thursday with much fanfare turns that sewage into $84 a tonne fetilizer pellets for commercial sale. The pellets, however, are being trucked straight to the landfill. Agriculture Canada still hasn't granted a licence so the pellets can be sold as fertilizer."
The Star reported that "The plant was plagued by fires following its March 1999 opening and closed in October 2002 when an explosion destroyed equipment, blew holes in walls and caused $5 million in damage." Obviously from that time until re-opening, sludge had to be shipped away. The Star reported that it was actually a good deal for the City since we were being charged $60 to send the sludge to the landfill and not paying the amount of $90 under the contract for the sludge to be processed.
No matter the optimistic Administration reports to Council that set out the new opening dates (September 2003, then March 2005, then June 2005), it took around 4 years to rebuild the plant. During all of that time, sludge was hauled to landfills in Ontario and Michigan by Prism-Berlie at $60 per ton it appears.
In going through this series of events, I had a number of questions:
- Did anyone in the past confirm and can anyone confirm now that the old plant and now the new one meets specs and can process what it is supposed to process. Is the plant in compliance and what tests were run to prove it
- If not, what will the City do about it?
- During the period while the plant was operating, what percentage of the sludge was processed? For the balance, what happened to it. If it was shipped to a landfill, what price did the City pay---$27, $40, $60 or $90
- During the 4 years after the explosion, did the City pay $60 for hauling and not $27 and if so, why? It was said that the city "saved" money....In fact, did the City pay out too much ["Shuttering the plant saved the city money. It's been paying $60 per ton of sludge to haul 2,500 tons of waste per month to Michigan for disposal in a landfill. It costs $90 per ton for the recycled process. "It's cheaper to put it in a landfill, but it's not environmentally viable or an appropriate thing to do," [Kit] Woods said."]
- How was the $60 calculated and did it go out for tender?
- Will the City get a plant of value when the contract expires
- "The city signed a 20-year contract." Given the downtime, will the contract be extended?
Depending on what the facts are, money may be owing to the City if we overpaid for getting rid of sludge. If money is owing to the City, how much is it? I assume that the City will go out and collect it.
Why didn't the sharp-eyed, line-by-line, eagle-eyed Coucillor Budget and the Budgeteers catch this?
Easy---Just so you know, "biosolids processing is financed through the Sanitary Sewer Surcharge which is a self-financing reserve fund and cannot be used for other municipal purposes." In other words, no one would really notice anything about it or care. It's just a few pennies. But those pennies multiplied by millions of gallons of water add up quickly!
Reading The Future: MDOT & DRIC Watch Out
Hruspicy is the art of divining the future by observing the entrails of sacrificed animals.
The art of reading tea leaves is referred to as Tasseography (or Tasseomancy) and is a divination or fortune-telling method that in western tradition interprets patterns in tea leaves. The term also refers to the reading of coffee grounds... [and]has also been applied to the reading of wine sediments.
Tarot is a form of cartomancy, or divination based on cards.
I am sure there are many other ways to predict what is going to happen. Don't you wish that we were able to tap into them sometimes so that we could know what is to come to remove some of the uncertainty from life.
There is one form of getting a sign that is infallible in the world of politics. It is called "Press Releasography" or the art of determining the future by reading Press Releases published about key speeches.
Politicians never say what they want to say directly since that means that they would be making a decision and being decisive means that someone can get mad. Ergo votes could be lost. The technique then is to make a major speech and to drop a hint about future conduct in a line or two in the speech that may be unnecessary but is to signal the course that the politician is going to take for those involved in the issue. It is a sign!
Let me give an example. What speech can be more important to a politician in union state like Michigan than a Labour Day speech. If you agree with me, then what the Governor says in that speech and more particularly what her Press Release emphasizes about it should tell a lot about what is to happen in Michigan over the next year. Let's see how the Governor's speech is reported in her Press Release:
- "Granholm Pays Tribute to Michigan Workforce on Labor Day Weekend
September 1, 2006
LANSING – In her weekly radio address, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today said Labor Day is a day to salute the labor contributions of Michigan’s workforce and to honor the great Michigan value of hard work symbolized by the Mackinac Bridge.
“The Mackinac Bridge, for me, is a symbol of another great Michigan value: the value of hard work,” Granholm said. “We are blessed in Michigan with the nation’s greatest workforce. We have the engineers who design our state-of-the-art automobiles and the workers who build them; we have the scientists who are designing the next lifesaving drug and the researchers who are developing alternative energy sources and new technologies. We have great ironworkers who built the Mighty Mac and Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, and great teachers who are educating Michigan’s next workforce.”
Now why would the Governor talk about the Mackinac Bridge for heaven's sake? There are so many other ways to demonstrate the value of "hard work." Obviously it has nothing to do with that bridge but everything to do with the other bridge she mentioned in the speech---the Ambassador Bridge.
That comment was designed to poke the Michigan Republicans and candidate for Governor Dick Devos right in the eye! They won the battle when they passed the legislation to cut the money to allow DRIC to move forward in the next fiscal year. But she just signalled that she is going to win the war by taking over the issue and in her favour.
Remember that $3.5 billion is at stake over the building of the bridge if the Bridge Co. moves forward on the border crossing: $1.5 billion that Government does NOT have to spend to replicate a crossing a mile from the Ambassador Gateway project and about $2 billion in matching Federal funds.
The Governor made a big deal in Press Releases back in November about money and jobs:
- "November 21, 2005
LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today signed a package of bills that will invest more than $2 billion to create thousands of new jobs and diversify the state’s economy. The state will invest nearly $1.5 billion dollars; that investment is expected to leverage an additional billion dollars or more in private investment focused in four key growth areas: life sciences, advanced manufacturing, alternative energy, and homeland security."
- "November 18, 2005
Governor Highlights Efforts to Create and Retain Jobs Across the State
LANSING – In her weekly radio address, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced a new wave of job creation in Michigan, highlighting her administration’s efforts to attract new businesses, retain existing jobs, and create new jobs across Michigan...
Granholm announced yesterday that her administration is accelerating over $600 million in needed road and infrastructure building projects. The projects are part of her Jobs Today Initiative and will put 11,000 people to work."
So if there is $3.5 billion at stake for spending and jobs on building the Ambassador Bridge enhancement project, don't you think that the Governor wants the credit as HER issue before the Republicans wake up and make it THEIR issue? Don't you think that Kwame knows what those jobs would mean for Detroit? Don't you think that the Governor is telling him that the project is THEIR issue too to solidify the relationship. She still has his letter from earlier in the year. It took a long time for her to draft a response but she gave it in her Press Release.
Now if Prime Minister Harper and Canadian Transport Minister Cannon would only learn Press Releasography, then perhaps the Conservatives could finally figure out how to win two seats in Windsor:
AMBASSADOR BRIDGE AND ROAD-BUILDING JOBS,
AMBASSADOR BRIDGE AND ROAD-BUILDING JOBS,
AMBASSADOR BRIDGE AND ROAD-BUILDING JOBS!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
The DRTP That Rohrer-ed
I know that Mike Hurst has been working very hard lately trying to convince anyone that someone should buy the DRTP corridor so that OMERS/CP Rail can recover some of the huge amounts that they have paid out on this ill-conceived project.
I guess that DRTP never took my advice to call the Bridge Co. to see what their position was on a DRTP link to the Ambassador Bridge. It's probably better that they do not know. Imagine if Mike had called and the Bridge Co. said "NO!" What would the DRTP office have to do then?
It has to be tough work for the DRTP CEO delivering his Green Solution pitch once every so often to a public group of citizens. And the idea of meeting all of the incumbents and candidates for municipal office must be hard for the man who used to be Mayor of Windsor. Thank goodness that Matt Marchand is there to assist.
However, I wanted to warn Michael that things may be tough at DRTP these days. Frankly he should have known that. Did you see the size of the announcement in the Star? PUNY. Where is the full-page or at least half-page ad that we have come to expect from DRTP? Not even a bill-board or two.
I can understand why DRTP is tight with their money. The Consultants at the CCG meeting shot down their proposal, again, even the new Green one. Here are some of the reasons given:
- A 2-lane truck tunnel under the river does not meet the needs of the project
- A tunnel being built along the corridor would impact South Windsor negatively since property outside the DRTP right-of-way would be required.
- The DRTP Customs plaza (located now on Highway 401) would be too far away from the border for CBSA's liking
- It has problems where it "pops up" on the other side. There are community issues and connection difficulties to the Interstate system.
It may be that Mike Hurst hurts now too. It looks like DRTP is not Rohrer-ing much any more either but it is merely whimper-ing.
When Is ...Not Encore
The strawberry tarts were very good at the CCG meeting last night. It almost made the 3 hour meeting worthwhile.
I am a member of the Canadian Community Consultation Group (CCG) in the DRIC process. Officially, the role "of the CCG is to assist the Project Team by providing information and input relative to community interests in the Windsor/Essex County area at key points in the study."
Sounds impressive doesn't it? Actually, I thought it was set up so that the Project Team could say that they met with citizens. Look at how many meetings we had with these stakeholders. They are now part of the process and no longer can object. They had their chance to speak.
The odd time though I get some gems. Tonight was one of those nights.
1) When is "design" work not "design" work...when it is "engineering" work.
And I always thought lawyers played with words. Not so. I listened to MOHAMMED S. ALGHURABI of MDOT and was given this subtle distinction. I was truly amazed.
I am sure that you know that the Michigan Legislature said, and it was not vetoed by the Governor, that as of October 1, the start of the new fiscal year that
- "The department [MDOT] shall not, directly or indirectly, expend any funds appropriated in Part 1 for design or right of way acquisition associated with a new crossing of the Detroit River between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario."
I did not recall any adjectives modifying "design" in what the Legislators said. When I pointed out that "design" was "design" in the Budget amendment and was prohibited, Mohammed then told the CCG that this was not really "design" work but "engineering!"
I wonder if the Legislature in Michigan will agree. Or Mr. Steudle. Or the Governor
Perhaps I'll ask them via this BLOG. I know that Mr. Alghurabi knows about this BLOGsite since he asked me if I was going to BLOG what he said. I replied in the affirmative. I did not want to disappoint him.
2) When is studying governance for a new crossing not studying governance for a new crossing...when the crossing will be publicly owned.
You'd think that with 41 people working for her on the border crossing matter, Ontario Minister Cansfield by now would be educated on the border issues---or maybe she is! We may have an answer as to who will own the new crossing now.
I had so hoped that MTO's Dave Wake would be at the meeting but he was not. So I had to ask MTO's Roger Ward the question. I asked him to confirm that the DRIC FAQ re governance was still their official position. That FAQ is:
- "Will new border crossings be privately or publicly owned?
Public oversight and protecting the public interest is paramount to the Border Transportation Partnership. The priority is to make sure the Detroit River border crossings are secure, efficient, and well managed. Work is ongoing on both sides of the border to examine potential governance and ownership models for our border crossings. The options being considered include government ownership, various forms of collaboration with the private sector, and/or creation of an authority. Work will continue among the partners to reach agreement on the best option for management of new border crossings."
I then asked how he could reconcile that FAQ with the Minister's remarks in September's "In Business" where she said:
- "...Our crossing will be publicly owned...We know that we have to deal with the plazas and the acess roads, and those decisions will be made, but they will be public."
- "We are on schedule...Everything's going according to plan."
Mr. Ward could not give me an answer. He said he could not speak for the Minister. Surprising isn't it? Just like the time when the Michigan Governor undercut everyone a year ago by unilaterally killing certain crossings. The Staff don't know what the Boss thinks and are caught by flatfooted.
Who is telling us the truth? Has there been a decision on governance or not. If there has been one, why haven't we been notified? When was that decision made and on what basis? Why wasn't the public asked for their views?
The next obvious question is whether the private proponents have been treated fairly...but you know what, they have lawyers to whom they can ask that question.
3) When is an environmentalist not an environmentalist...when he/she is a pesky environmentalist like Alan McKinnon.
Eddie Franics must be really laughing himself silly. Obviously he knew that his reference to the Ojibway Nature Reserve being tunnelled would be like a red cape to a bull when the Star published it. It would immediately provoke outrage amongst the tree-huggers and he was right.
I saw Alan last night at the meeting and he admitted that he did the predictable and sent in a totally predictable Letter to the Editor to the Star. Silly statements in it like "Generations have worked and sacrificed to preserve it for our grandchildren. Decades of community effort will be dishonoured, thousands of mature trees lost, and we will all be the poorer for it."
"Vigilant Fairness" at the Star may mean that the letter never sees the light of day but we shall find out in the next week or so. I do not want to publish more of Alan's letter so that the Star has the excuse that it has been "published" already.
Perhaps Alan can get Eddie's Chief of Staff to help him get his letter published so that everyone in the Mayor's office can have a good chuckle too. They neeed a tension breaker every so often.
That Eddie Francis sure has a good sense of humour doesn't he.
4) When is drilling holes for brine wells and sinkholes not drilling holes for brine wells and sink holes....when it is drilling holes for foundations investigations for a better understanding of the bedrock stability
I was pretty shocked over the word "foundations" when I first heard it. I immediately thought that they had made a decision and were starting to drill the foundations for the new bridge. I was wrong. It's all about what they were going to do and on both sides of the river.
Total cost will be around $12 million, $6 million on each side. As I said before, if the Bidge Co. crossing had been used, this money would not have had to be spent.
Now I know why the lines in a song in My Fair Lady were written:
- "Words! Words! Words!
I'm so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?...
Say one more word and I'll scream!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The Long Wait Has Started
Another Border Story The Star Missed
The Star did not report this story so it does not matter. So Far.
He will blow up now since I have posted the Press Release that demonstrates that EC Row is now at risk as a truck route. Effectively the Senior Levels are telling him who cares what you think! You are irrelevant as the County has won. And it's all part of the Border Strategy that we are carrying out in spite of you.
You'll see, Eddie will tie this into the Huron Church lawsuit story somehow and protecting the public. After all, he HAD to do something when I posted the story that he was going to announce an EA hearing [and then he did not] and then his NDP friends Masse and Comartin conceded that Huron Church corridor was going to be used.
So we get the threat of an Eddie-lawsuit. Do you really think that the man who likes to play"Perry Mason" when he cross-examines others will allow himself to be put in the postion where he would have to be examined for discovery, a part of the Litigation process. Come on now, that is NOT his style.
It's all part of Eddie's modus operandi: Pretend, divert and then execute.
I'll explain what is behind all of this in my next BLOG.
For release September 5, 2006
CANADA AND ONTARIO ANNOUNCE FUNDING TO WIDEN MANNING ROAD
WINDSOR — The governments of Canada and Ontario, in partnership with the County of Essex, today announced funding for the widening of Manning Road (Essex County Road 19) from north of County Road 22 to the VIA Rail line. This investment complements the environmental assessment and preliminary engineering design that are being initiated by the federal and provincial governments to identify improvements to Manning Road from Highway 401 to County Road 22.
The widening of Manning Road from two lanes to five lanes will provide improved traffic operations and better highway access to the border for local industry and for both commercial and commuter traffic in Essex County. This project is one of several projects announced under the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy. Funding for this strategy comes from the Canada-Ontario Border Infrastructure Fund, a joint commitment by the federal and provincial governments to invest $300 million on the Windsor Gateway.
“The new Government of Canada is committed to a safe, secure and efficient border,” said the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. “This project demonstrates our priority of investing in transportation infrastructure to support transborder trade and the economy of the local community.”
“Investing in our highways is critical to Ontario’s prosperity,” said Ontario Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Donna Cansfield. “Improving the flow of traffic in the Windsor-Detroit Gateway is one of the Ontario government’s priorities and so far we have invested nearly $20 million to do just that.”
“Improvements to Manning Road will provide better highway access, benefiting industrial, commercial and commuter traffic in Essex County,” said County of Essex Warden, Mike Raymond.
“I am pleased that the federal and provincial governments are providing the infrastructure investment that will facilitate the flow of traffic and support economic development in our community,” said Mayor of Tecumseh, Gary McNamara.
The Mayor of Lakeshore, Bob Croft added, “We look forward to the enhanced traffic operations this funding will provide, expediting the movement of people and goods in our region.”
The process to select a consultant for the Manning Road widening from Highway 401 to County Road 22 is nearly complete and the environmental assessment study will be underway shortly.
In addition to the Manning Road environmental assessment, construction is continuing on the advance utility relocation for the road-rail grade separation on Walker Road at Grand Marais Road in Windsor.
Recently completed projects announced as part of the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy include:
A pedestrian overpass on Huron Church Road at Assumption High School;
Intersection improvements on Highway 3 and Huron Church Road;
The implementation of Intelligent Transportation Systems such as traffic cameras to improve traffic management, video monitoring, and driver information; and
Advance work at Grand Marais and Walker Road to facilitate traffic staging during the upcoming Walker Road construction.
Several more projects will complete the environmental assessment/engineering phases in 2007:
Highway 401 widening from east of Highway 3 to west of Manning Road;
Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Plaza Master Plan improvements; and
Environmental assessment of a road-rail grade separation on Howard Avenue at the CPR tracks.
Plan, Pretend, Divert and Execute
It’s all BS. You know it, I know it and Windsorites know it. But it is more than just mere election posturing to help the incumbents get re-elected. David Estrin will be happy for the new legal fees while poor Gridlock Sam better find another engineer or he might not be part of this to tell us to THINK BIG again.
It’s all part of “Plan, Pretend, Divert and Execute.” I threw in an extra word. Plan, since Eddie is the “legal technocrat” who thinks ahead.
A friend of mine met a Senior Councillor the other day and the Councillor said that he was surprised that there has been an absence of public outcry against the use of the TalbotRoad/Huron Church corridor and not more support for tunnelling. Isn’t that the City position that he was talking about? In other words, he was saying, NO ONE CARES.
It is a surprise isn’t it that NO ONE CARES?
How can Eddie dare say “most don't know proposed bridge routes all include widened Huron Church.” I hear insiders at City Hall call Eddie the Great Communicator. His Eminence Grise is a master political manipulator having had years of experience. They know how to get the story across and they have. The reality is that NO ONE CARES.
Come on now, if the citizens do not know what is going on along the corridor by now, they never will. The City has been involved in a direct and public campaign of scare-mongering. Remember the letters to residents along the corridor, the confusing session at the South Windsor arena, the Tecumseh meeting with Sam’s “Zone of Mass Destruction” drawings covering the area beside the “DRIC roadway” like the fallout from a nuclear blast! How many times have we heard about “quality of life,” tunnels, and “we deserve the best.”
Of course the public is not totally stupid as City Hall thinks. People bought their homes near where trucks have travelled for years, especially in the new subdivisions, and have lived with those impacts for years. They made a conscious decision to buy a home there. Oh yes, the scare-mongering worked until the DRIC meeting where home-owners found out that their places were not going to be expropriated or be negatively impacted and so theywent back to enjoying the summer. NO ONE CARES
Why else was the tunnelling protest so anti-climactic with so few turning out in spite of the vast coverage begging them to attend? Why else would Masse and Comartin have conceded the route in their press conference of last week? No wonder Eddie had to come out guns ablazing—sort of. Oh he will send a tough letter, ---“ The city will write a letter to the provincial and federal governments, asking their positions”--- but he won’t sue. [Actually, he might now to prove me wrong
Eddie is pretending that he is interested in the corridor. He isn’t right now. He has the Tunnel on his mind and the hundreds of millions of dollars he is going to collect as he fools the Senior Levels into building his Tunnel Plaza Improvements at their cost and then does his financing deal.
There was a Freudian slip in the Star story by the way and that inherent conflict of interest of the Mayor as Mayor and as Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission:
- "Our No. 1 priority is to defend and protect the interests of the city of Windsor and the residents of the city of Windsor."
He has planned this for a long time, culminating in the Phase 1 Agreement on the border over 2 years ago.
He is continuing to divert attention AWAY from the Tunnel (Do you remember seeing huge ads to attend the Tunnel Plaza meetings). The Schwartz Report was nothing more than the Grand Diversion designed as a political document to make everyone come onside to support it or fight against it, it did not matter to Eddie.
When Schwartz finally fell apart after buying time for over a year, we had the new, “old” strategy that will fall apart again but it accomplishes the objective. As you must know by now, buying time is the Eddie strategy as we have seen with interim control by-laws and giving the Raceway all the time in the world to hang themselves as the new Casino gets built and the East End arena is justified.
The new, “old” strategy, as has been done in the past, is to focus on Talbot Road/Huron Church. Bring up the ghost of Reports past, Sam Schwartz, and get the tree-huggers into a frenzy again:
- “Francis said the city has been pushing DRIC to consider an environmental assessment that would examine "all options" including tunnelling. He said the Schwartz proposal, which was commissioned by the city and completed by New York traffic expert Sam Schwartz, moves the traffic off city streets and creates a tunnel under the Ojibway natural area. "They've not even looked at that alternative," Francis said.”
No wonder we had that strange Star story on August 28 that popped up out of nowhere talking about the Bridge Co., the Detroit Mayor and the Tunnel. [Moroun tunnel bid 'in works': Detroit mayor plans to pursue takeover deal, official says]. Scare-mongering Detroit Council I guess to stop the Bridge Co.’s project so his can go forward. Pressuring the Feds along with the Province to stop the Bridge Co. so his can go forward.
Trouble is for Eddie, and he is just starting to recognize it because it was not part of his intellectually-conceived Business Model, is that Eddie has probably seen the vast majority of the Tunnel worth vanish as the Tunnel miseries have been disclosed over the past few weeks. Eddie’s major problem is that he cannot execute. He is afraid to do so because he might be wrong and then the failure sticks to him. That cannot be allowed.
But let’s be generous, and assume that Eddie will get his Tunnel dream. Of course the threatened lawsuit is to get the Senior Levels on-side. You help me out on the Tunnel eg buy off DCTC. As I mentioned in a recent BLOG, someone has to because DCTC have 14 years left on their contract and have paid out lots of money. Then the City won’t sue and muck up the border.
After that is wrapped up, Eddie can focus on getting his way on the new “public” bridge. The answer has already been given in the Star. You just need to be able to recognize it in advance. The Feds are already going to do it so it is NO big gamble on Eddie’s part. If I know it, so does Eddie! It is not as Eddie said,
- “Francis said the issue could be resolved quickly if they agreed to tunnel the entire route.
"They can step in and say, 'We're going to take care of it and protect the community.”
Take the extreme position and then back-off. That is how a litigation lawyer Perry Mason negotiates isn’t it? You never start at your real position. The answer after some trade-offs will be a variation of “One of the options along the Huron Church Road route includes tunnelling for 65 per cent of the route” provided the City’s Brighton Beach property is also used and the Bridge Co. is stopped.
But how will Eddie get the bridge and plaza he wants and what will be the justification. I was dumb as a reader wrote. I missed it. As my reader said:
- “You neglected to mention how the new arena will fit into the joint 2020 Windsor-Detroit Olympic bid! And they need that land out by the Racetrack for the Olympic Village! It'll be so conveniently located being so close to the scenic Zug Island bridge. [The City has been working on the project since February he told me]
How else can one explain the nonsensical Star story that ran on September 02, 2006? Remember that Eddie starts his planning a year or so before anyone has figured out what his real intentions are. I am just pointing it out to you, dear reader, so you can say “I told you so” at cocktail party small talk time :
- “Olympics a Super Bowl followup?
On the heels of Super Bowl XL in Detroit, rumours keep spreading the city will soon form a committee to explore pursuing the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
And Windsor would be front and centre of any potential bid thanks to the idea that a two-nation Olympics may appeal to the selection committee. Many reports have cited Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as initiating the Olympic effort and that he plans to form a committee to explore the possibility.”
- “But the idea Detroit could host the 2020 Olympics is considered far too rich for a city on the verge of being unable to pay its monthly bills, said a spokesman for Kilpatrick this week.
"The mayor said it would cost $1 billion to put on an Olympics and we don't have those type of revenues," said Matt Allen, Kilpatrick's press secretary. "So there is no discussion on this coming from our office.
"Some entity has been out there starting this, but it's not us.”
We need the bridge NOW to be built by 2013. How else can we realistically make a proposal to the Olympic Committee if the border does not work. We need the hotels and facilities on both sides of the border as was shown during Super Bowl and we need a proper and redundant bridge and infrastructure because of the security concerns. And do not forget Dwight Duncan’s $500 million Gong Show money which will be available after 2010, after Dwight is re-elected on the public bridge/Olympics ticket!
Who cares if it is all make-believe. It can work.
My head hurts now thinking about all of the permutations and combinations. Eddie has had several years to think about it; I have only had a morning.
But what if Eddie fails to execute, again. What if he really sues to show he is the MAN, and a tough guy to boot! Who loses out?
Obviously, Windsor does. Who the hell is going to invest in a Community where the border does not work and will not for years while the case goes slowly through the legal process? No wonder Eddie has no interest in doing anything with an Economic Development Commission at this time. They would be laughed out of any Company’s office if they tried to pitch Windsor at this time!
More importantly, and this will ultimately be the end of our Mayor’s ambitions, Michigan and Detroit will care. Do you really think that they will sit idly by and see their State and City be devastated by the actions of some small town Ontario Mayor with grand ambitions? The Governor, the Legislature and the Detroit Mayor and Council will not let this happen. Neither will the President.
In the end finally, and we can only pray, neither will the Government of Canada!
For Windsor's sake, SOMEONE HAD BETTER CARE.
Wanna Buy A Tunnel
Have I got a deal for you.
Did you hear about the gullible man who almost bought the Brooklyn Bridge? It seems as if he may be buying the Detroit Windsor Tunnel instead.
I happened to see some numbers about what the Tunnel might be worth in my research and I thought that I would test them out.
Back in February, 2005, the Mayor claimed that "We're sitting on a $200 million to $300 million asset." But that was when he said that Windsor was getting $6.6M as a dividend. At that time, the City was looking to hire someone who would live and breathe tunnel business to make it prosper. After all, the Tunnel was called as well "our greatest revenue-producing asset."
In November, 2005, Representative Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit said "Factoring in inflation, Detroit's side of the tunnel is worth at least $62 million up front, Tobocman said. In 2020, the city could ask for $118 million for its portion of the tunnel, he said." (He's probably using an inflation factor of around 4.5% and that is after DCTC was gone).
I assume that Rep. Tobocman got the number from someone in Detroit City government. If we multiply it by 2 to include Windsor, then we would get a value today of about $125 million for the Tunnel. That is quite a drop in value in less than a year!
Let's not take those numbers too seriously. I am not sure how one would reconcile $2-300M with $125M. I would expect that both sets of numbers may be prone to some exaggeration. One always wants to err on the high side when selling. Just as a laugh, if we take Eddie's numbers for Super Bowl ($100M) compared with reality (my calculation of $5-10 million), then the Tunnel is not worth much, perhaps a maximum of $30 million.
We need to have a public debate about the Tunnel and other City-owned assets and what we should do with them. But we won't. Under the Purchasing By-law:
- Sec. 32. (1) A Sole Source purchase may be used for the purchasing of goods and/or services for Contracts of any Contract value, in the following circumstances:
(i) Where a public/private partnership exists.
Whatever the value, we need to look at factors that might result in deductions from the gross amounts to see what the Tunnel is really worth. In the end, some financial analyst will crunch numbers to see which infrastructure asset makes the most sense from a business case perspective whether the asset be a tunnel, bridge, pipeline, nuclear plant, transportation hub or airport.
There is an equivalent of a first mortgage: the DCTC agreement with 14 years left to run. DCTC would need to get some cash out first if they were to be bought out of their contract. They would not go cheaply although I reckon they might be happy to go. It paid US$53M in 2001 for its interest in the Tunnel on the US side. It also is entitled to profits for the next 14 years. If Windsor made $6.6M, then DCTC must have made a few dollars too. I expect as well that DCTC have sunk money into the Tunnel for improvements that they had expected to amortize over the life of their involvement so that number would have to be calculated. It would not be at all difficult to develop a number in the range of $70-75M or more as a buyout number.
And do not forget that the City will be loaning the Tunnel $10-15M to be paid back with interest so that is something to be recognized as an upfront cost also.
Then let us assume that each City has to pay for its own refurbishment of their Tunnel Plaza. That's $10 Million for Windsor ($20 million may be paid by the Senior Levels, maybe) and $50-70M on the US side.
Over the next 50-75 years we know that we will have to fix up the Ventilation building again and this time, put in scrubbers to clean the dirty air being spewed by the Tunnel over the downtown now. That has to be more than $20M if the situation this time around is repeated.
The Tunnel is getting old----and if we add in another 75 years, well it will need some major reworking. The Holland Tunnel in NYC opened in 1927 and I saw a story dated in 2003 that the Port Authority in NYC will invest over 5 years "$216 million in capital improvements at the Holland Tunnel. The funding for this project will allow us to continue to take the measures that keep this facility safe and in a state of good repair, and also allow us to meet the demands of both motorists and the surrounding community." So we are talking serious money even if the Holland Tunnel is much bigger. (Our Tunnel was renovated in 1993 at a cost of $50M)
Of course, if an investor puts in money a rate of return is required, never mind covering operating costs.
One generally would want to invest in an asset that has a growth potential. But with our Tunnel, we have seen a huge drop in traffic volumes and in revenues since 1999, about 1/3 in each case. With the passport law, high Canadian dollar, tourism drop, business melt-down and the potential of another border crossing competitor whether a new public bridge or an enhanced Ambassador Bridge with 200 customs booths, one would have to be a wild-eyed optimist to expect business to grow.
There is another factor that would have to be considered as well. The successful infrastructure developer would undoubtedly have its toll setting powers restricted by the 2 City Governments. After all, the Tunnel has a public aspect to it as well, as Eddie keeps trotting out.
Now I am not a number cruncher but it is easy to see that a significant upfront investment would have to be made to cover the DCTC buyout amount and cover loans. That initial sum alone is about $85 million dollars. That amount on an amortization calculation of 75 years at 5% interest works out to about $4.4 million a year. That alone equates to about 1/3 of the Tunnel revenues.
If we do the same with capital costs as set out above ($200 million) to be paid over the years, that is another $10.2 million per year or just slightly less than the total revenues of the Tunnel.
So far, we have exceeded the value of the yearly Tunnel revenues and have not added in operating costs or return on investment or taken into account growth potential and competitive factors.
To be direct, I have no idea whether my approach is the right one or not when one looks at an infrastucture investment for the long term. All I can see is investing in an asset at a loss for a number of years until tolls are allowed to increase with no contribution to operating costs or return on investment in an environment where the traffic and revenues have steadily declined for years with no growth in sight.
Frankly, if Forbes is right about the value of the Ambassador Bridge "The bridge's likely worth today: half a billion dollars or more," and its revenues are so much higher than the Tunnel's with the potential to keep on growing, then how much is the Tunnel worth. My just for laughs number of a maximum of $30 million might not be so bad after all.
That means $15 Million each for Windsor and Detroit. Hardly the earth-shattering deal is it after all but one that has occupied our Mayor's time to the detriment of the important issues facing Windsor!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Waiting For The Privacy Commissioner
The Arena Jig Is Up: The Toldos and Rosatis Have Lost
If you really think that we will learn something definitive about the arena during the week of September 11, the week I have heard that Eddie wants a meeting over the subject, (not sure if the meeting is to be public or in camera), then you are wrong.
We will hear Phase 1 of the Plan so Council can say they are moving forward for re-election purposes but not the real plan. It will keep the public from being furious over spending $100M for a playground for young hockey players. It will keep the Councillors on side for an East End monument. More importantly, it will keep the Toldos and Rosatis off-balance and QUIET thinking they are still in the running---until Eddie and friends are re-elected. Then comes Phase 2 when it is too late for them and our pocket-books.
How do I know all of this. It's simple. Face-to-Face.
John Fairley, the host of Cogeco's Face-to-Face, is no Mike Wallace but he does terrorize certain interviewees. Wallace's style is described as a "no-holds-barred interviewing technique" that drags information out of subjects. John gets his subjects to spill their guts by being so pleasant to them that they do not realize that they are saying everything to the public until after it has happened!
No wonder, Ward One's Councillor Budget, Dave Brister, is the only member of Council not to appear this year on John's show. Clearly he is afraid of being interviewed on Face-to-Face. I think he is scared that John's questioning could cost him his re-election bid over issues like the border, the budget and the arena! How many times has John asked him on air to appear and he has declined.
After the recent Don Sadler interview, Councillor Budget may well be smart not to go.
Effectively, Don Sadler in the interview gave us the outline of what is going to happen, not completely mind you, but close enough that we can guess. We will be sold a bill of goods before the election that might give the Toldos and Rosatis some hope but what is being done is designed so that the public will NOT turn down the spending of money in the East End now. The Plan is being carried out in separate, seemingly unconnected stages as Eddie likes to do:
Pretend, divert and then execute is his technique
Unfortunately, as we have seen, Eddie is great at planning as a "legal technocrat" but he seems unable to execute as reality sinks in and his grand vision fails. Just like with the Border with the Schwartz Plan and the Tunnel!
Now before poor Don gets hammered for spilling the beans by the Mayor and Councillors, the whole picture has all been revealed already in Gord Henderson's April 29 column where he interviewed Eddie on the arena. Here is the ultimate plan and you will see that Don is merely following along:
- "By 2009, when major projects like the Norwich Block fiasco, the city hall welfare tower mistake and the new Huron Lodge at St. Clair College have been paid off, the city will find itself with torrents of money flowing in and no major funding obligations. In 2009 it will have an additional $23.5 million available, in 2010 $36.4 million and in 2011 another $36.4 million...
"If this was 2002 financial circumstances, it wouldn't even be talked about. But our financial prudence is paying off and giving us flexibility. We can pay for this (the arena complex) without going to debentures and without going to the taxpayers," explained Francis. He cautioned that this is still early in the process and the numbers are preliminary. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done. And unless there's a solid business case that can be justified, nothing will happen."
One of the stronger arguments in favour of building this four- pad arena complex is that it will generate significant savings in operating costs for decades to come.
Riverside Arena, Adstoll Arena and the Edward Street recreation centre are all money losers that require subsidization by city taxpayers and are in urgent need of replacement. Moving those operations to a four-plex that would turn a small profit annually and turning Windsor Arena into a civic rink could generate savings of as much as $700,000 annually over the status quo"
If you heard Don's interview, you will notice as I did his seeming embracing of the Barn as the continued site for the Spitfires and the fact that he seems to know not more than we do about the Raceway's plans. In fact, I have heard that the Raceway has hardly been contacted by Administration during the time when they were supposed to be analyzing the East End and Raceway proposals. If Sadler does not know more than I do, then it can hardly be much of an analysis.
But the key to me was a change as set out in Gord's column on July 20:
- "According to Francis, councillors at the end of this process will choose among three options: the status quo, a $55-million go-it- alone arena complex and community centre on the east side and the raceway proposal."
HUH??? Only a few days before it was only 2 options and now the BARN was back? What gives? I thought the Barn renovation was dead since on April 28, the Star reported "council also opted to scrap the alternative proposal to retrofit Windsor Arena and twin two community ice pads at a cheaper cost of about $39 million." That story also pointed out "The arena could be built in three phases, with the two regular- sized ice pads going up first, followed by the Olympic-size pad and then the main rink. "
Now the jig was up. Let me outline what Don said in John's Face-to-Face interview and add my comments as appropriate on it so you will see what I mean:
- According to Provincial standards we are deficient in the number of rinks we have in Windsor. We have 8 sheets of ice in 6 locations and need 2 more [Thus the 4-pad at the East End complex as Gord revealed]
- We have aging facilities at Riverside and Adstoll that require a huge investment to keep them operating and with the Edwards seniors facility which was built as a school.
- Lauzon and Tecumseh Road is a general area where a "recreational facility" could be built since it is within driving distance of the old rinks. [Haven't we heard at Council several times now recently that bigger complexes where several activities are joined together are the trend]
- The East End is growing and there is a need to satisfy their recreational needs [That's Eddie's electoral power base now and in the future and keeps, Wilson, Gignac and Hatfield on-side]
- Lauzon and Tecumseh could accommodate a 2-pad arena with a recreational component attached to it. [NOTE: only 2 pads are discussed, not 4 as in Gord's column so that keeps the Raceway alive for the pre-election period so there is no controversy. The view will be given that 2 more ice pads are still needed as well as a home for the Spitfires as you shall see]
- If only a 2-pad arena was built, then we would still be 2 pads short after tearing down the old ones. Don "UNDERSTANDS" that there is a Raceway proposal [If he only "understands" then what kind of game has been played respecting the analysis. Why doesn't he "know?" He should be intimately familiar by now with each and every detail of Project Ice Track if there is to be a September meeting. Remember the Mayor had said a "report on the Toldo-Rosati arena proposal would likely be presented to council at this month's final meeting on July 24 or possibly sooner at a special meeting." It's now almost 2 months later. What have they been doing in the interim other than wasting time?]
- Don said the Raceway arena would help since it builds 2 ice sheets and shows that there is still an interest to build an OHL facility [See the families are given a false hope. How nice.]
- Respecting Project Ice Track, Don has seen no more than what was presented to the community but what he has seen is very exciting. [Unbelievable]
- He is not worried about the Barn losng the OHL team since it is a viable recreation centre and fans are still enjoying OHL hockey in the arena. [If the new Spitfire owners do not go crazy over this remark, then you know there is something going on in the background!]
- The Raceway arena location is not a concern since people already drive around and travel a distance and it would not negatively impact the South Windsor arena [This could rebound to hurt the Mayor and Council one day]
I have to tell you that this interview was about the most bizarre I have ever heard. It makes no logical sense at all and is in contradiction to what has seemingly taken place already. If it is illogical, then one needs to find out the true explanation. What the truth is was revealed in Gord's column along with the comment about three phases.
It's all there to read in front of us so there is no big surprise. You just have to put it all together don't you. And isn't that why you come to this BLOGsite each work day!
In other words, the Toldos and Rosatos are being played again. The Casino expansion is well underway and the East End arena is ready to rock....who needs to bother with the families now except to keep them under wraps until that pesky November election is over.
By the way, the rumours about the Lear lands as a site for the East End are running rampant. The Star reported that "Coun. Tom Wilson said he's "heard rumours" about land available on Lauzon Road, next to the Lear plant, but nothing is confirmed." The Lear lands, 110 acres, were purchased a year or so ago by Fahri Holdings out of London. On May 8, the zoning by-laws effecting several of the Lots were changed to permit business offices within the existing building as an aditional use.
Readers have told me several times recently about stories that they have heard which I am following up on. Who knows what is really happening. One day we will.
Jumping Off The Good Ship Francis
First the huge victory for the Customs Union in having guards armed at the border. I guess that means at least no more walk-outs over issues that seem remote but result in slow-downs at the border.
It was announced that:
"It is expected that fully trained and armed officers will begin to be deployed as early as September 2007. By March 31, 2008, roughly 150 armed officers will have been deployed. Full implementation is expected to take place over a period of 10 years."
Ten years!!!! As a friend of mine wrote, "If you need arms, then do it. If you don't, then don't. Do you send fireman to a fire just a few at a time?"
Then a garbage story. U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin negotiated a deal with the Ontario Minister of the Environment, Laurel Broten to reduce Canadian trash dumped in Michigan. What was hailed as a massive victory may not be one.
It was reported in the Macomb Daily that
- "the deal would only block residential waste generated by municipalities who ship here. That represents about 40 percent of the 4.4 million tons that cross the border each year in hundreds of trucks per day.
Numerous private agreements to haul solid waste from industrial and commercial companies, construction sites and demolition projects in Ontario would continue."
But the strangest story of all may be the almost non-story since it was not reported in the Star until days after it took place. The two Windsor MPs held a press conference. I was told a Star reporter was present but the Star did not report it at the time. What gives?
I heard a snippet of a news report on CKLW that NDP MPs Masse and Comartin held a press conference re properties being expropriated by DRIC for the border crossing. They wanted to ensure that the property owners, especially small businesses, were properly compensated and that the burden of some of the compensation payments did not fall on Windsor taxpayers. They were supposed to have sent out some kind of document but I have not seen it yet.
I also heard through the grapevine that His Worship was very angry about the story since he had only been made aware of what the MPs were going to do about an hour before their announcement.
I phoned around and no one had any idea why the press conference was being held and what the purpose of it was. The Senior Levels are nowhere near expropriation yet so why the need for Masse and Comartin to say anything and why would Eddie get so furious.
The answer is very obvious. The two MPs have shown little leadership in the border file, especially when the NDP held the balance of power in the last Government. They and their Party achieved nothing for Windsor. But what they are good at is identifying what is about to happen before most people do, taking the obvious steps and then taking the political capital out of it for their re-election advantage.
What do I mean by this.
It is clear that we will have another Federal election within a year or so. The two MPs are staking out their position on the border as being pro-Windsor citizens who are having their property taken and trying to ensure that expropriated citizens get all the money they can. They want to take the political credit. Smart poltics for them on that.
But the deeper meaning is that the two MPs have figured out that Eddie has no border position. I wonder if my recent EA story and Schwartz story helped convince them finally that the road to the Ambassador Bridge's new enhancement project will be the DRIC road.
Yes, you read correctly. The Ambassador Bridge will get their enhancement since a public bridge will not happen (but there will be Bill C-3 oversight) and the road to get there will be the one that DRIC suggested although we do not yet know the full details of how it will be built. It will NOT be completely underground.
After all, the story stated:
- The binational Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study has already determined the Talbot Road-Huron Church Road corridor will be widened and remain the main feeder route to a new crossing located somewhere in Sandwich."
Since there will not be a bypass built for border traffic around the city, the area under review for the new route stands to have "a tremendous impact on different neighbourhoods," Masse said last week."
If Eddie had a border position other than scare-mongering, Brian for sure would know what it was. The Schwartz Report is dead and there is nothing that the City has to replace it. Eddie and the Council were caught by their secret endorsement of Schwartz which included the DRIC road as an alternative. They are stuck with the WALTS/DRIC road as their official position. Tunnels and quality of life might get Eddie and the incumbents re-elected but it would not help the MPs a year from now.
More importantly, the two MPs are obviously hearing what some Conservative MPs and Ministers in Ottawa are saying after the Bill C-3 border hearings and are reasonably sure now what Tranport Canada will have to do to make the border work after the Michigan budget legislation. Michigan signalled as strongly as possible that only a private bridge is acceptable for the new crossing and only at the Ambassador Gateway. The Governor's failure to veto the legislation means she is onside and we know what Kwame wants.
Brian and Joe know that this is right as well because even DRTP are now acknowledging that the only way they will ever get their money out of the corridor is for the Feds to force a solution to have their corridor used to link to the Ambassador Bridge!
Eddie was so mad because, by Brian and Joe announcing what they did, you found out what is going to happen on the border. By jumping off the ship HMS Francis, Brian and Joe revealed all.
Eddie knows we are getting the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge. Brian and Joe know we are getting the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge. The Star knows we are getting the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge. Now you do too.
No wonder the Mayor was furious.
Sandwich Heritage Consultant
The whole issue respecting the hiring of a Heritage Consultant seemed strange.
The City's Heritage Planner heard from a number of possible contractors that the City's $50,000 limit on the contract was too low. It looks like none of them bid. [Interestingly, Sam Schwartz had an interest but ultimately did not bid since it was said that the firm did not normally do this type of work.] The bid from Stantec was at $77,400 which is over the limit although the 2006 work was under the limit at around $40,813. Nevertheless Stantec was recommended by Administration.
Stantec seemed very well qualified from the initial Report. I know that the Report talks about Stantec London but I thought I heard at the Council meeting reference to the Stantec Kitchener office. If that office is involved as well, then Stantec would have a big plus that should have been mentioned as another justification for the transaction. Schwartz's former assistant, Marko Paranosic, is employed in the Stantec Kitchener office now. If anyone should know about the Sandwich area, the background and the issues there from an engineering and other perspective, it would be Marko. His assistance would be invaluable.
So all ends well after all if Council goes along. It just took an extra bit of work to do so.