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Biodigester a risk, but one worth taking, Mullins says

By Mike Williscraft

Setting ongoing concerns regarding Grimsby’s $4.5 million biodigester aside, Rob Hattin wants to know why council and hydro officials did not heed the Town’s legal counsel’s opinion.

Hattin, a former chair of Grimsby Energy, says serious concerns are evident in every facet of planning for the Sobie Road facility and insufficient due diligence throws gas on the fire.

“It makes no sense to ignore that advice,” said Hattin.

“It is a multi-million capital project with long-term financial implications for the Town’s largest asset and the Town itself. Why would you not turn every stone?”

Carolyn Mullins, chair of Grimsby’s Finance Committee, said she understands the concern, intensity of it and reasoning, but she believes council has already been down that road.

“I don’t disagree that there are risks with this project, but I believe this is project is sound,” said Mullins.

“I would not, and nobody else on council, put the Town in a precarious position.”

Hattin, who has expressed concerns with virtually every facet of the project – including operating budget, valuation of input material costs, payment plans and the Town’s financial guarantee as well as the facility’s energy producing efficiency – said the risks that are involved make it a non-starter.

In a Letter to the Editor this week, Hattin cited the Town’s track record in managing past major capital projects calling their performance, “underwhelming”.

“So why would this be any different,” he said in an interview.

Which brought Hattin back to his point about the independent review.

“We had a third party review it. We got legal advice. Our lawyer reviewed it,” said Mullins.

“He provided us with a letter outlining our liabilities and financial obligations. We’ve done everything we need to do.”

While there has been no full public disclosure of many key points in the business plan, Hattin said there is more than enough that is known which should be setting off the community’s alarms.

An example of that is a clause in the $4.5 million guarantee which town council has already approved.

“There is a clause there that Town assume immediate responsibility for the whole entity if Grimsby Energy defaults on just one payment,” noted Hattin.

“That is very unusual. Typically, it would go to a parent company which has assets and other means with which to deal with the debt as opposed to it being handed right over to the Town, as in this case.”

“You’re right,” agreed Mullins, when asked, “That is odd.”

“But we own both, so in a roundabout way we are ultimately responsible.”

“The project is getting a lot of attention and it should. It is good that people are stepping up. It will help ensure all concerns are addressed.”

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