Now everyone wants in on the turbine opportunity. Henry Schilthuis and Sons happen to have a turbine in their warehouse – any bidders?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 19, 2012  Michael Yakimchuk, Director,  BrightSky Power Renewable Energy Co-operative, an organization that has been trying to get a roof on the building of some city owned property on which to set up solar panels to generate electricity that will raise revenue for the BrightSky shareholders.  He hasn’t been able to generate much interest at the Burlington Hydro level and the city isn’t exactly making his objective easy.

BrightSky is all for anything that will generate power without using fossil fuels.  As strong environmentalists they have been following the story of the turbine that was to be part of the pier.

Yakimchuk says that when the story on the decision to kill the turbine part of the Pier, broke, I “was working for Hydro One Networks and part of my job was to determine the capacity available for renewable generation projects on Hydro One’s grid.  That’s why I was surprised when I watched the City Council proceedings and heard that the turbine was being cancelled because the electrical system couldn’t take the power generated.  I knew this was not true and I notified BurlingtonGreen immediately.”

Is the vibration this turbine will create the real reason council doesn't want to see it as part of the pier?

“It turns out that there was some miscommunication between Hydro One & Burlington Hydro – I don’t believe the misinformation was deliberate.  Most everyone should now be aware that there is indeed capacity available on the electrical system for this project.   There is no need for batteries (this is a red herring) and the assertions that the project could end up costing taxpayers money or affecting the stability of the pier are completely unsubstantiated – this is a dead simple project.

I know that Burlington Hydro is not asking for their money back but I also know how the money was originally approved for the project (by Burlington Hydro) and how it was funded by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA).

It was funded out of the OPA’s energy conservation fund and there are specific rules around how that money can be spent.  If the project ends up being cancelled, Burlington Hydro will have to fund the project out of net income which means less revenue for the city.  In the end, Burlington tax payers will be burdened with the cost that should have been picked up by all Ontario electricity ratepayers.”

More and more of this story creeps to the surface.

Late in May, Yakimchuk wrote the Mayor asking that the turbine part of the project not be jettisoned but no one on Council seems to want to listen to the advice now available to them from people who know the turbine business inside out.

The plans being used to build the pier show a dual mode meter.  The device is in the building – all it needs is a hook up to the appropriate electrical cables once the turbine is in place.

Steel beams that were deemed to be deficinet were trucked away late in December. Six months later, the beams to replace these are still not on the sconstruction site. Lots of questions as to why.

What is coming to the surface now are the problems with metal fatigue that will result from the vibrations from the turbine.  There are informed engineers who think that one of two things has to happen to the design: either the base on which the turbine is going to rest is beefed up with additional concrete (and some suggest that the pier itself could not handle the additional weight from that concrete OR that the base for the observation deck and the turbine go right down into the bedrock.  THAT would be a design change.

Still a lot of questions around this issue. Is there something some members of Council know that the rest of the city doesn’t know?  The pier has been a series of problems that can be overcome – but Council is going to have to be candid and transparent with the people who are paying the freight on this one.

All this confusion comes at a time when the city’s legal people begin the process of what they call “examination for Discovery.” This process is expected to last about six months with the first 90 days used to exchange documents.  Each side asks the other for specific documents, and then each side gets to examine the other on the contents of the documents.

It is near the end of that process that the lawyers for each side take a hard look at the facts that have come to the surface and decide if it is worth going to trial and let a judge hear the case or if this is the time to make an offer and try to settle before any trial.

While there are more than half a dozen organizations who are a party to this mess – and each has their own agenda; there appears to be a consensus developing that suggests the city may not have the case it thinks it has.  Too early to be sure.  We will know before the end of the year.

Nothing happens in isolation.  The city still talks in terms of the Pier’s official opening being part of the 2013 Sound of Music Festival.   That would appear to be a very optimistic target date and one Council members would want to edge away from – if the date isn’t met they will wear that one.  The lead up to the 2014 municipal election will begin late in 2013 and having the sour taste of a pier that wasn’t ready yet is not something any council member wants to have to explain.   Watch for some council members beginning to distance themselves from the June 2013 date.

Was she rtight all along? Turbine information is coming form all kinds of people - ciouncil seems to have plus in their ears.

Ward two Councillor Marianne Meed Ward will of course come out of the pier mess smelling like a bunch of roses.  She has always maintained that the city should have negotiated with the original contractor.  Had we done that – we just might have had a pier and we would probably have gotten the finished product for less than we are going to pay for the latest version.

If the city has to shell out additional dollars based on a court settlement the lawyers agree upon – all hell will break loose.

The unfortunate part is that if there is a legal settlement that impacts negatively on the city it will have a gag order attached to it and you might never know what the true cost of the pier was.

So much for transparency.

Yakimchuk, in his letter to the Mayor points to “some important economic considerations.”  He may not realize just how devastating those economic considerations could become.

Stay tuned – this isn’t over yet.

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