We made it through the ice storm: power now on throughout the city.

December 30, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Gerry Smallegange, Burlington Hydro’s CEO, had dinner with his family Sunday night.  The last home in North Burlington saw its lights go on during the day and the wind was normal with the temperature rising.  Burlington had put a lid on its 2013 power outage.  Now for the cleanup and for the Burlington hydro crews to take  a trip up the road to where the people in Halton Hills are still waiting until they can flick on their lights.

Burlington Hydro CEO Gerry Smallegame and COO Dan Guatto worked all out during the power outage to get light back on – rural Burlington proved to be a real challenge.

Smallegange and his COO DanGuatto, were out day and night.  The worked with the city’s Emergency Operations Committee and interacted with the various stakeholders in the electrical generation industry that serves Burlington.  Burlington doesn’t generate any power; it draws power from various sources and distributes it to homes in the city

Burlington Hydro is a wholly owned subsidiary of the city – you the taxpayer, own them and while you might gripe when you open that electrical bill, when the next one comes in be grateful that you had a fully dedicated team out on the streets and roads of the city fixing the problems.  There wasn’t a person on the operations side of Burlington Hydro who was at home Christmas Day.  It was all hands on deck and forget the idea of an eight-hour shift.

There is quite a story to tell on how Smallegange and Guatto kept it all together and got the job done.  At the second community meeting in Kilbride on Christmas Day, Smallegange was at the front of the room trying to give people detailed answers to the question: When?

He had maps and sheafs of papers in his hands.  Eyes bloodshot from a lack of sleep and his voice a little raspy as well, Smallegame’s voice began to rise as he tried to speak over all the other voices.  He paused and then said: ”I’m not yelling at you – I’m just trying to project my voice.”  It was that kind of day.

Smallegame, a father of three who lives in Burlington may have gotten to see his kids open a present but he sure wasn’t around the house in his slippers playing with the his children and the gifts they had been given.

Running Burlington Hydro is just one of the tasks Smallegame handles; he serves as one of Burlington’s appointments to the Conservation Authority and works closely with the city’s planning department on large projects that call for more than minimal power from the system.

During the awkward times with the MedicaOne project on John Street, Smallegame found himself in the middle of an issue that was not his making.  Power was needed some distance from line that ran along Lakeshore – who should pay for getting a large power line from Lakeshore up to Caroline where the development is to be located was not something Hydro expected to be involved in.

What the public saw was an accomplished executive working just a little outside his comfort zone but nevertheless able to be part of a solution that kept everyone – well almost every – happy.

The efficient and effective distribution of power is essential for a city like Burlington that has moved from greenfield development to infill and intensification.

Running the day-to-day part of the operation that keeps the lights on is job enough – learning that there is a major piece of weather is on the way has Smallegame checking the tools he needs for emergencies and then moving a totally different mode.

It has been a mammoth task.  Early next week the hydro accountants will begin to figure out the cost of the ice storm –they may not be as quick to tell you about that as they were in getting crews out into the field and cutting trees and re-stringing hydro wires.

Christmas Day at the Kilbride Fire Station: Scott Stewart, General manager Infrastructure and development for the city takes questions from area residents while Gerry Smallegame and Dan Guatto look on. Fire Chief Tony Bavato looks on.

With power restored work crews focus on clean-up.   “In the coming days and weeks our staff will focus on the clean-up” was the way  Scott Stewart, general manager of development and infrastructure saw things panning out. . “Our crews will be clearing fallen trees and branches and other debris in all parts of the city.”

The Region is lifting the three-bag limit for garbage pick-up, allowing households to place as many  as six bags of garbage for collection on their scheduled day until Jan. 31, 2014. Brush debris will also be picked up on the same day as garbage from Jan. 6-31, 2014 in designated urban areas. For rural areas, Halton Region is coordinating additional resources.

Resident can also drop off brush debris at the Halton Waste Management site free of charge.

The city has set up two drop-off stations – one in Lowville Park (6207 Guelph Line) parking lot and the other at Ella Foote Hall (2175 Blessington St.) – where residents who are able to can drop off brush and wood.

The drop-off sites open on Sunday, Dec. 29 and are staffed daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be either a loader or a backhoe at each location to assist with debris.

The Warming Centre at the Kilbride Fire Station and the Haber Recreation Centre are now closed. The city’s Emergency Operations Committee has also stood down.

 There are a lot of branches that have fallen and while most have been moved to the side of the road where they will be picked up – there are situations where branches have to be moved. Email rpm@burlington.ca

We came through it.  There were some significant communications glitches that need to be looked at but there were no fatalities.  A lot of tired men who spent long hours climbing poles and trimming branches from a box at the end of a boom with the sound of a chain saw roaring in their ears.  


It was a winter wonder land for amateur photographers – a challenge for hydro crews.


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